Pow Wow Essays
In the spring of 1999, with the sanction of the International Whaling Commission, among other entities, the Makahs, an American Indian tribe whose reservation is on the Olympic Peninsula in extreme northwestern Washington state, reaffirmed an 1855 treaty right by successfully hunting and killing a grey whale and then bringing it back to the town of Neah Bay.
Eight and a half years later, in the fall of 2007, a group of five Makah men (including two veterans of the first hunt) participated in an unsanctioned hunt that resulted in the death of another grey whale.
The questions I want to ask in this essay are not so much about the differences between legal and illegal whaling, but rather whether or not the two hunts differ in the context of an American Indian or Indigenous land ethic, and if so how.
Let me start not with the hunt or with the film, however, but with a few references to how Kiowa writer N.As does Buddy, he wants to rescue Bonnie, but he also wants to continue a quest he has just begun to gather medicine and become what he understands to be a Cheyenne warrior.When the two men finally get to Santa Fe, they do rescue Bonnie and her children and successfully elude police pursuit.The illegal hunt does differ, however, in that because of the hunters’ poor preparation and lack of expertise, the whale suffered an especially brutal killing.Legally, of course, the differences between the two hunts are immense: one had the approval and sanction of appropriate governing entities, the other did not.Ultimately they ride off en masse, evidently back to the reservation in Montana.Although the episodes depicting the long drive and literal rescue mission might seem to dominate the film’s plot, the threats of political chicanery and serious environmental exploitation do underlie and motivate the film’s entire action.Humans must recognize and take advantage of this capability of language.(As appealing as these directives might appear as articulations of a land ethic, however, nowhere in his writing and theorizing does Momaday seem to offer anything more specific or concrete concerning a person’s necessary relationship with and attitude toward nature and the environment.Le film, la controverse qui a fait suite aux chasses Makah, ainsi que d’autres écrits indigènes offrent un prisme à travers lequel on peut proposer une théorisation de la conscience environnementale amérindienne.In an effort to make an assessment of the place of an American Indian environmental consciousness, this essay compares two related Makah whale-hunting events with a completely different text, the American Indian film , in which a character insists that trickster will protect Cheyennes and Indian people generally from environmental degradation.