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Makah Leader Decries Tactics of 'Conservationists'

Indian people have endured many tragedies in our history with Western contact-disease, lost resources, cultural genocide and a general experience of loss as we watch our beautiful planet being slowly destroyed. Still we have taught our children to maintain hope and seek non-violent ways to express their anger and make a positive influence in endeavors to protect what has been left for us by the old ones.

Our treaties with the U.S. have been our greatest opportunity to complete our journey, to bring our culture full circle, and practice what our ancestors have provided us. May 17 marked for the Makah people a completion of that circle. This is a great day for us and the people of the United States.

We have witnessed many of our species driven to near extinction through over-exploitation and a general disregard for conservation. The taking of our first whale in 70 years is a living example that tragedies experienced when two cultures collide can be righted. Endangered cultures and species can and must be saved. Our whale hunt represents a huge step toward that quest.

In an example of great courage and dedication to honor contracts between governments, the U.S. government and the Makah Nation went to the International Whaling Commission to correct a terrible wrong. We felt it was important to make our presence known in the forum and receive recognition and approval of our age-old practice of Makah whaling tradition. We wanted to educate Whaling Commission members about how we set aside our traditions during the rebuilding of whale populations. We wanted to give our support to the process of world wide whale management. It offers the only reasonable approach to rebuild all species of whales through mutual respect and a combined effort of science and international obligation. This dream was realized by the granting of a quota to our people.

The Makah felt is was important to show other nations that the United States respects and honors agreements with the First Peoples of America, despite what began as strong opposition from their public. Our hope is to have a positive influence in the treatment of aboriginal peoples internationally, who have lived much the same history as American Indians, but were afforded little or no rights when their homelands were taken.

The Sea Shepard Conservation Society claims to be a conservationist organization. My understanding of conservation is utilization while providing healthy and sustained populations of species. They represent a "look but don't touch" approach to human interaction with the environment.

Is this practical in a world that needs to conserve and sustain

natural resources in balance with the demands of our global populations? Tribal people believe resources can once again can be bountiful - and wisely utilized - throughout the world if we make this a serious international goal.

Most disturbing these organizations to thwart our effort to return to our heritage. Are lies, racial remarks and threats of violence the message we want to teach our children?

The environment movement is as important today as ever. We must continue to build public support for the environment, but not by deception. Overall whale populations are rebuilding. This is good. Much work remains, however, in sustaining the progress that has been made and in concentrating on populations that are on the brink of extinction. I fear the types of measures used by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and others may diminish by deception the support needed to provide our future generations with a healthy environment.

Treatment as displayed by Sea Shepherd is not new to our Native people. During and after the Boldt Decision we experienced the same anti-Indian sentiments expressed by these groups. Shellfish has gone much the same way.

The result, 25 years after the Boldt Decision, is now a fight, led primarily by tribes, to protect the habitat that salmon need to remain healthy. We persist as the voice of reason and balance for the state to provide strong natural resources and a growing economy. Shellfish beds are being polluted to the point of closure in parts of this state. Again, the tribes will bring solutions to the negotiation table that can balance growth and development with a healthy environment.

We have built partnerships with many who were our enemies during the 1970's to protect the precious and fragile experience of fishing with our children and to teach them the value and quality of life we experience here in the Northwest.

Lastly, but most critical, is the issue of violent expression by our opposition. It is of vital importance that we as a society teach our youth not to strike out in anger. Threats, derogatory statements and personal attacks on our tribal leadership cannot be tolerated. A country run rampant with children killing children, domestic violence and a general disrespect of others' opinions must be traced to its origins and addressed.

We all understand that violence is a learned behavior. It seems obvious to me that the attitudes exhibited by Sea Shepherd and other groups are the foundation that plant the seeds of violent behavior. Expression of our opinion is one of the greatest gifts provided by a free society. With this freedom also comes a responsibility to conduct ourselves in a non-violent manner.

I am very proud of the way our people handled themselves during

this past year. Under extreme taunting by the opposition we maintained our pride and dignity, and guided our children in the proper direction. I hope this can be realized by the public. I am confident that we are preparing our youth for entering the next millennium with our culture intact, bringing attention to aboriginal rights nationally and internationally, and continuing to build a healthy natural and human environment for all to enjoy.

By: Dave Sones, Makah Natural Resource Director & Makah Tribal Member. This article appeared in The Daily World Thursday, June 3rd, 1999. Page A-4