Sunday, October 14, 2007

Makah Tribal Members Illegally Kill Another A Gray Whale in the Strait of Juan de Fuca; Face Charges Of Conspiracy, Unlawful Taking Of A Marine Mammal

This is an issue that will never die. Unfortunately though, the Makah don’t associate killing with disrespect for life. And, even more, the total necessity of killing for food in a culture dominated by meat.

As the story below states:

“A federal grand jury in Seattle last week indicted the group on five misdemeanor charges of conspiracy, unlawful taking of a marine mammal and unauthorized whaling. Each man could face up to a year in jail and fines of $100,000 if convicted.”

Article:

Not-guilty pleas in whale hunt

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/
2003946807_whalers13m.html


By Lynda V. Mapes

Seattle Times staff reporter

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ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Wayne Johnson, the group's leader, said he is not guilty of charges brought forth by an illegal hunt of a gray whale last month. "Of course I'm not guilty," he said before the hearing in Tacoma. "I have a treaty right."


TACOMA — With a courtroom packed with supporters from Neah Bay, five Makah tribal members appeared in federal court here Friday to plead not guilty to charges in their illegal hunt of a gray whale in the Strait of Juan de Fuca last month.

Wayne Johnson, Frankie Gonzales, Andrew Noel, Theron Parker and William Secor all offered no other comment to Chief Magistrate Judge J. Kelley Arnold as they entered their pleas. A trial was set for Nov. 27. The men then left the courthouse free on bond.

A federal grand jury in Seattle last week indicted the group on five misdemeanor charges of conspiracy, unlawful taking of a marine mammal and unauthorized whaling. Each man could face up to a year in jail and fines of $100,000 if convicted.

The men also face separate prosecutions in tribal court, where they could be sentenced to up to a year in jail; pay up to a $5,000 fine, and have their treaty rights to fish suspended for up to three years.

The Makahs who arrived in Tacoma to support the five whalers were defiant of the federal court.

Johnson, the group's leader, repeated his position that they had a right to hunt the whale under terms of a 19th-century treaty between the U.S. and the Makah tribe.

"Of course I'm not guilty," Johnson said before the hearing. "I have a treaty right."

Asked whether he had any regrets, he shook his head. "This is a lifelong struggle."

Outside the courthouse, several Makah grandmothers carried signs that said "Broken trust."

"We're here to support the young people," said Gail Adams, 67. "They shouldn't have to pay a fine. They shouldn't have to go to jail. It's like a bad dream."

Arnie Hunter, vice chairman of the Makah Whaling Commission, agreed that the whalers did nothing wrong.

"It's something the rest of us wished we could have done," he said outside the courtroom. "It's what we grew up with. It's our songs. It's our dances. It's who we are. We are whale hunters, and our forefathers reserved that for us in the treaty."

On the other hand, Hunter said, rules are rules. Still, he said he felt sad to see the whalers in court.

The Makah are the only tribe in the country with an explicit treaty right to whale. However, because of a 2002 court decision, the tribe needs a waiver from the federal government before it can legally whale again. The waiver has been stalled in federal review.

Meanwhile Friday, animal-rights activists said they are glad prosecutors have filed the strongest charges available under federal law.

"We are pleased this is being taken seriously," said Kitty Block, vice president of the Humane Society International in Washington, D.C., which opposes any Makah whale hunting. "This has to happen, or the whale's life would have been taken for nothing."

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