The Makah Tribe’s Winning Fight for Whaling Rights

The Makah Tribe’s Winning Fight for Whaling Rights

The Makah Tribe has a special connection to whaling. This practice is part of their culture and history. For over 1,500 years, the Makah people have hunted gray whales. This was important for food and tools. It was also a spiritual tradition.

A Promise in the Treaty

In 1855, the U.S. government made a promise. This promise was in the Treaty of Neah Bay. The treaty said the Makah could hunt whales. But in the 1920s, the Makah stopped whaling. Why? Because commercial hunting almost wiped out gray whales. This was a sad time for the Makah.

The Fight to Reclaim Whaling

In 1994, gray whales were no longer endangered. This gave the Makah hope. They wanted to start whaling again. The Makah asked the government for permission. They wanted to honor their treaty rights. In 1999, they had their first whale hunt in over 70 years. It was a big moment for the tribe.

Legal Challenges

Not everyone agreed with the Makah. Some people and groups thought whaling should stay banned. There were many legal battles. In 2002, the courts said the Makah needed to follow new rules under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).


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A Key Moment in 2019

Under the Trump Administration, something important happened. On April 5, 2019, NOAA published a rule allowing the Makah to hunt whales for ten years. This rule was a big step in respecting the Makah’s treaty rights.

A Long Journey

From 2005 to 2024, the Makah faced many challenges. They had to follow many rules. There were many public meetings and comments. The tribe worked hard to follow the law. They wanted to show that whaling is part of their culture. Frustrated by delays, some Makah whalers went on a rogue hunt in 2007, killing a gray whale that sank. They were later convicted in federal court.

A New Beginning in 2024

In 2024, NOAA made a final decision. They granted the Makah’s request to hunt whales again. This decision was a victory. It showed respect for the Makah’s culture and history.

We are hopeful that environmental activists and organizations will step aside and allow this culturally significant victory to continue for generations to come, respecting the Makah Tribe’s deep-rooted traditions and treaty rights.

The Makah Tribe’s fight for whaling rights is a story of resilience. It shows the importance of keeping promises and reminds us that culture and tradition matter. The Makah never gave up. They fought for what they believed in, and they won.


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