Verdict against Makah whaling upheld; new rulings on Native hunting rights

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2003:

SEATTLE–The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on
December 1, 2003 upheld a December 2002 ruling by a three-judge
panel from the same court that the National Marine Fisheries Service
failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act in
permitting the Makah Tribal Council of Neah Bay, Washington, to
exercise a claimed treaty right to hunt gray whales.
“The plaintiffs in the case–the Fund for Animals, the
Humane Society of the U.S., and other groups and individuals–argued
that the government failed to adequately study the ways in which the
Makah whale hunt could set a dangerous precedent and adversely affect
the environment,” explained Fund for Animals spokesperson Tracy

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Animal Advocates and Indigenous Peoples: The Survey Results

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  June 2003:

Animal Advocates and Indigenous Peoples:  The Survey Results
by Lee Wiles

In a survey conducted during the winter of 2002-2003, 1,000
randomly selected U.S. readers of Animal People were asked various
questions about, among other things, their attitudes toward
indigenous peoples in the United States and Canada, indigenous
peoples’ use of animals, and the animal advocacy movement’s
interactions with indigenous peoples.  A total of 358 ANIMAL PEOPLE
readers responded.
The survey discovered that approximately equal numbers of
animal advocates are sympathetic and unsympathetic toward the
indigenous rights movement. This split appears to be due to the
ambivalence many animal advocates feel toward indigenous peoples
after several disputes over hunting and trapping.

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BOOKS: Sightings: The Gray Whales’ Mysterious Journey

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2003:

Sightings: The Gray Whales’ Mysterious Journey
by Brenda Peterson & Linda Hogan
National Geographic Society (1145 17th St. NW, Washington, DC
20036), 2002. 286 pages., hardcover. $26.00.

Defenders of gray whales migrating along the Pacific coast of
Mexico, the U.S., and Canada won two important court decisions
within 18 days as 2002 closed and 2003 began.
First, on December 20, a three-judge panel of the Ninth
U.S. circuit Court of Appeals ruled in San Francisco that Makah
tribal treaty rights granted in 1855 do not supersede the intent of
Congress in enacting the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The verdict
requires the National Marine Fisheries Service to conduct an
extensive environmental impact review before authorizing the Makah to
hunt any more gray whales.

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Animal advocates lead in preventing hot car deaths

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2002:

ATLANTA–The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
reported on July 3, 2002 that at least 78 children died in accidents
associated with parked cars during 2000 and 2001, more than a third
of whom died from heat trauma.
The CDCP data indicates that animal advocates are doing a
much more effective job of communicating the risk of leaving pets
alone in cars than child protection agencies are accomplishing in
reaching parents.
The dangers to either animals or small children are the same:
heat trauma is the most common cause of death or injury, followed by
accidents when a child or animal accidentally puts the car in gear,
accidents in which the child or animal escapes from the vehicle, and
cases of kidnapping or pet theft.

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Will wild orca capture and Makah whaling resume on Puget Sound?

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2002:

SEATTLE, SHIMONSEKI– Decisions announced on May 24, 2002
by the National Marine Fisheries Service in Washington D.C. and the
International Whaling Commission in Shimonseki, Japan, hint that
the next big battles over both whale captivity and whale-hunting
might be fought on Puget Sound, Washington state.
But again, maybe not, as the issues of captivity and
“cultural subsistence” whaling that sparked high-profile protest in
the mid-1990s have all but dropped from public view.

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Tribes gun for more whales–and polar bears

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2002:

NEAH BAY, Washington–The Makah Tribal Council has asked the
U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service for a high-speed Coast
Guard-grade cutter similar to the whale-catchers used by Japan and
Norway– and has hinted that the Makah, like Japan, may engage in
so-called “research whaling.”
Claiming a right to kill gray whales since 1995, under the
1855 treaty that brought the Makah into the U.S., the Makah Tribal
Council said at first that it expected to sell whale meat to Japan.

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Cannibalism, sacrifice, and hunting in National Parks

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  April 2001:


FLAGSTAFF,  Arizona–As many as 40 newly hatched golden eagles and redtailed hawks may be stolen fron nests within the Wupatki National Monument north of Flagstaff this spring for sacrifices originating out of some of the nastiest known history in North America.

The eagles are the sacred totems of the Navajo;  redtails are the totems of their traditional allies,  the Apache.

For approximately 1,000 years the ancestors of the modern-day Navajo and Apache treated the Pueblo civilization built by the Hopi and related tribes like a larder.

During droughts betwen roughly 1080 and 1580,  Navajo and Apache raiders often stole Pueblo corn,  massacred Pueblo adults, and cannibalized the children.

In between,  the Navajo and Apache terrorized the Pueblo tribes for amusement.

Cannibalism faded out but frequent raids continued long after the Spanish conquered what remained of the Pueblo civilization and converted the survivors–nominally–to Catholicism.

Unable to distinguish one tribe from another,  Spanish garrisons at times retaliated for Navajo and Apache mayhem inflicted on remote missions by killing any Pueblo people who remained nearby.

Kit Carson and the U.S. Cavalry finally stopped the murderous cycle in 1863-1864 by poisoning and shooting all the Navajo sheep. Starved into submission, the former Navajo raiders waited out the U.S. Civil War in concentration camps.  They were then given new sheep,  of Old World breeds,  and moved to the fringes of Hopi land in the Four Corners area,  where Arizona,  Colorado,  New Mexi-co, and Utah meet.  There–with Navajos surrounding the less numerous Hopi–the tribes have uneasily coexisted ever since.

Historically the Pueblo tribes were far more numerous,  more affluent,  and much more technologically advanced than the Navajo and Apache, yet seemed perennially unable to mount effective self-defense.  The Hopi,  however,  evolved a religious ritual which mocked the Navajo and Apache by attacking their totems.

Each spring,  Hopi men would raid the nests of cliff-dwelling golden eagles and redtails,  steal the hatchlings,  leave gifts in their places,  and bring the hatchlings home to raise as tethered captives.  In midsummer,  just before the young birds became capable of flight,  they were ceremonially smothered to death in corn meal, plucked,  and buried.  The feathers were used in connection with special prayers and to costume kachina dolls.  Eagles and eagle feathers were most highly prized.

The Hopi have continued the ritual despite sporadic efforts of missionaries and U.S. government agencies to repress it.

The sacrifices seemed to be history from the 1962 passage of the Bald Eagle Protection Act,  which also protected golden eagles and was superseded by the Endangered Species Act,  until 1994,  after both bald eagles and golden eagles were downlisted from “endangered” to “threatened” status.

But few eagles’ nests were left on Hopi territory.  When Hopi attacked eagles’ nests on Navajo land near Indian Wells,  Arizona, in 1995,  1996,  and 1999,  Navajo police tried to protect the eaglets.  Intertribal friction flared.

Then-Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt bought time by allowing the Hopi to capture eaglets on National Forest land–but the largest concentrations of eagles’ nests in the Four Corners area were within the Wupatki National Monument, near Flagstaff.

Removing eagles from “threatened” status coincidental with the sacrificial ceremonies in July 1999,  Babbitt in November 1999 proposed allowing the Hopi to capture eaglets from the National Monument.  The Wupatki National Monument had been officially off limits since 1924.  The Babbitt proposal accordingly required a regulatory breach in the Organic Act of 1916,  which created the National Park Service and has protected wildlife within National Parks and National Monuments ever since.

On January 22,  2001,  days before leaving office,  Babbitt published the proposed regulatory amendment,  to take effect in late March,  after a 60-day public comment period.  The amendment is vigorously opposed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility,  humane organizations,  and many Navajo leaders,  and could be cancelled by Interior Secretary Gail Norton or President George W. Bush.

The amendment  is reportedly favored,  however,  by religious freedom advocates including Christian fundamentalist Bush supporters; 22 Indian tribes which also claim hunting,  fishing,  and trapping rights within National Parks;  and sport hunters and trappers who see the amendment as an opening to gaining access to National Park land.


Feather merchants


Eagle feathers are ceremonially important to many tribes, including the Navajo.  Most tribes obtain feathers from the National Eagle Repository near Denver,  which collects and parcels out feathers from dead eagles found by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Applicants wait up to three years for coveted back and tail feathers.

The delay,  combined with growing interest in traditional Native American religion,  has created a substantial market for poached feathers.  At least 31 illegal feather merchants have been prosecuted since 1994,  including Antonio Alvarez,  25,  of Lac du Flambeau,  Wisconsin,  who drew five months in prison and five months in a halfway house on January 11 for hiding an eagle carcass at his girlfriend’s home on the Lac du Flambeau reservation,  and Gilbert George Walks,  38,  of Crow Agency,  Montana,  who on March 8 pleaded guilty to selling 17 feet,  a wing,  and a tail from bald eagles.

Former President Bill Clinton on his last day in office reversed one of the best-known convictions,  however,  pardoning Peggy A. Bargon of Monticello,  Illinois,  who was charged in 1995 after presenting a “dream-catcher” made from eagle,  owl,  and wild turkey feathers to former First Lady Hilary Clinton,  who is now a U.S. Senator from New York.

Founding the Navajo Zoo at Window Rock,  New Mexico,  in 1963 to house a bear who could not be returned to the wild,  the Navajo Museum subsequently accepted eagles and other birds donated by wildlife agencies,  and enabled Navajo shamen to bypass the National Eagle Repository by giving them fallen feathers.

The future of the seven-acre zoo was jeopardized in January 1999 when former Navajo tribal president Milton Bluehouse ordered–on his last day in office–that it be closed and the animals be released.  Bluehouse said that two Navajo women had seen deities in a vision,  who told them that keeping the animals prisoner was blasphemy,  even though most arrived at the zoo after suffering injuries that would inhibit their survival in the wild.  Others have never lived in the wild.

Bluehouse’s successor,  Kelsey Begaye,  allowed the zoo to remain open for the remainder of the lives of the animals,  but declared that it should not be expanded.

As the controversy subsided,  the Zuni tribe opened a similar facility for non-releasable eagles and other birds at Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico.

The Zuni are the largest of the surviving Pueblo tribes.  The Zuni of Jemez,  and Acoma Pueblos sparked global protest led by United Poultry Concerns and Animal Protection of New Mexico in 1995, after the All Indian Pueblo Council and New Mexico Department of Tourism promoted their spring “rooster pulls” as a visitor attraction.  Introduced by the Spanish in the late 16th century, “rooster pulls” are a contest in which a rooster is buried to his neck,  after which riders try to pluck him from the earth by the head.

The pulls occur on the feast days of St. John and St. James. Formerly practiced in other pueblos too,  they are believed to continue in Jemez and Acoma as private events.



B.C. halts grizzly hunts

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2001:

VICTORIA, B.C.–British Columbia premier Ujjal Dosanjh on February 8 announced a three-year moratorium on hunting grizzly bears within the province, as sought by Environmental Investigation Agency campaigner Martin Powell in an open letter published in the January/February 2001 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE. In the interim, Dosanjh asked scientists to resolve conflicting estimates which put the B.C. grizzly population at anywhere from 4,000 to 13,000.

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Australian, Canadian, U.S. high courts open refuges to native hunters

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1999:

D.C.––The Supreme Court of Australia on October 7 ruled 5-2
that the 410,000 recognized members of aboriginal tribes are
exempt from hunting and fishing license laws, under the
Federal Native Title Act of 1993, and may freely hunt even
protected and endangered species for personal use.
The Australian high court struck down parts of the
earlier Queensland Fauna Conservation Act on behalf of
Gangalidda tribe activist Murrandoo Yanner, who speared two
esturine saltwater crocodiles near Doomadgee in 1994 to create
the test case. The Yanner victory is expected to mean charges
will also be dropped against aboriginals who are charged with
illegally killing an extremely rare spiny anteater and an endangered
dugong, apparently also to set up test cases, as well as
against alleged aboriginal poachers of fish and seagull eggs.

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