The Makah Whale Hunt of 1999

Ter Ellingson

in The Myth of the Noble Savage

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2001 | ISBN: 9780520222687
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520925922 | DOI:
The Makah Whale Hunt of 1999

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For a more specifically targeted example of the political uses of Ecologically Noble Savage rhetoric, this chapter turns to the case of Makah whaling. On May 17, 1999, the Makah of Neah Bay, in western Washington, killed a whale in a tribally sponsored hunt. It was the first whale hunt conducted by the tribe in more than seventy years. The Makah's primary subsistence had been based on whaling and fishing for many centuries. As they proceeded with their plans to implement the hunt, they found themselves in the midst of a rising storm of criticism that reached a momentary peak with their launch of the first tentative hunting cruises during the autumn whale migration of 1998, and which rose again during the spring 1999 migration, to burst out in a torrent of unprecedented intensity, violence, and overt racism when the hunt finally succeeded in May.

Keywords: Makah whaling; Ecologically Noble Savage; Neah Bay; hunting cruises; racism; rhetorical attacks

Chapter.  5724 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural Anthropology

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