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An Endangered Species: Aboriginal Whaling and the Right to Self-Determination and Cultural Heritage in a National and International Context

September 2004

Citation: ELR 10763

Author: Jeremy Firestone and Jonathan Lilley

Jeremy Firestone is an Assistant Professor of Marine Policy, University of Delaware, College of Marine Studies. Jonathan Lilley is a Ph.D. student at the University of Delaware, College of Marine Studies. The authors acknowledge the comments of Howard Schiffman, Jennifer Sepez, and Peter Singer whose insights and wisdom have enriched the manuscript. The views expressed herein, however, are only those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect in whole or in part, the views of the reviewers. We dedicate this Article to Charles Wilkinson for sharing his ethic of people, place, and culture.

Like the miner's canary, the Indian marks the shift from fresh air to poison gas in our political atmosphere, and our treatment of Indians, even more than our treatment of other minorities, reflects the rise and fall of our democratic faith.

So stated Felix Cohen in his seminal article, The Erosion of Indian Rights. It is through Cohen's lens that we examine the recent controversy over aboriginal whaling in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. On June 16, 1994, the federal government removed the eastern North Pacific stock of gray whales (also known as the California gray whale) from the endangered species list because it was no longer in danger of extinction; nor was it likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. That decision set in motion a domestic and international controversy that continues to this day that places solemn treaty obligations, a devotion to cultural diversity, and a trust in the scientific community's conclusion that gray whales will not be threatened or endangered by the Makah Indian Tribe's whaling in opposition to a whale's right not to suffer and its right to life, our regret that it will endure both fates, and concern over the effect of allowing whaling in this instance on the global management of whaling.

I. Introduction

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