We Know Who the Real Indian Are - Animal Rights Groups, Racial Stereotyping, and Racism in Rhetoric and Action in the Makah Whaling Controversy

In this thesis, I examine the resurgence of overt racialism toward the Makah Indians by largely White middle and upper classes as evinced by almost exclusively-Euroamerican and EuroCanadian "animal-rights activism" groups - some in reality part of a developed "professional protest industry" who chose the Makah Nation as essentially a target of opportunity based on location, accessibility, and the cultural divergence of the Makah from colonialist cultural norms. These "animal-rights" opponents of the Makah whaling plan, working in fertile pockets of racism in Washington state, quickly and unabashedly assumed the worst characteristics of long-time anti-treaty, anti-Indian activists. Their self- serving tactics included disinformation, misinformation, and simple outright mendacity; worse, though, were the attempts to lay claim to the "Indian voice" in this controversy, through tokenism, false claims of heritage, and attempted usurpation of one of the most important and violent collisions of Indian people with the US government of the last half century.

In this thesis, I first examine and verify the whaling background of the Makah Nation, the centrality of whaling to Makah notions of peoplehood, and the current Makah whaling controversy, paying particular attention to the tactics used by and the connections established between goal-driven animal-rights/anti-whaling groups and established anti-Indian and anti-environmentalist groups and individuals. I will show that some pockets Washington State have a long, violent history of anti-Indian racism, particularly when issues of fishing, sealing, or other ocean-based enterprises are present. I then briefly consider the role that social and physical distance from sustenance-based interaction with the natural world of food sources and the other necessities of life has played in the development of the "animal rights" groups that have, with their associates in the so-called "Wise Use" and anti-treaty rights movements, created the climate of fear, hatred, and violence that has pervaded the Makah whaling controversy.

I then analyze quantitative and qualitative data collected from American Indian, Alaska Native, and Canadian First Nations peoples, and from Washington state and British Columbian tribal governments, to

  • Sample the base of indigenous support for Makah exercise of their reserved treaty "right of taking fish and of whaling or sealing at usual and accustomed grounds and stations," including Native opinions regarding the legality of Makah whaling
  • Establish the extent to which Indian people perceive a resurgence of racism, anti-Indian and anti-treaty activism in what might have been considered formerly receptive "environmentalist" segments of mainstream society, and determine to what degree the respondents, Makah and non‑Makah alike, have been exposed to personal occurrences of racial harassment
  • Ascertain the measure of physical danger that Native people deemed present to Makah whalers, the US Coast Guard, and the protesters, as a result of attempted interference with Makah hunts on the water by protesters
  • Determine the degree to which respondents observe links between "animal rights" groups and other groups with anti- treaty and anti-Indian agendas, and the extent to which Native people infer a wider anti-Native political strategy

Finally, I will show how anti-Makah "protest" activities have escalated in both rhetoric and violence, and how mendacious anti-Makah and anti-Indian campaigns have solidified their stances since my questionnaire data was collected between October 1999 and April 2000. I will also cite tribal leaders and other Native people who have written on the Makah whaling controversy in the past year, as the federal courts, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the International Whaling Commission, and other venues have remained or have become new battlegrounds in this controversy.


Michael Two Horses


Tom Holm





Arizona State Museum: 

M9791 T98
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences