Makah seek to distance tribe from whale killing

Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2007

NEAH BAY, Wash. - The Makah Indian Tribe said Monday it was flying some of its members to Washington, D.C., to assure the state's congressional delegation the tribe did not authorize the killing of a gray whale over the weekend.

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The tribe has spent years trying to win back federal approval to exercise its treaty rights to hunt whales.

In 1999, five years after the gray whale was taken off the endangered species list, members of the northwest Washington tribe legally hunted and killed their first whale in seven decades.

The hunt was met by fierce protests and animal welfare activists sued, leading to a court order that the tribe obtain a waiver under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to continue hunting whales.

Brian Gorman, a spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service, the agency reviewing the waiver request, said he does not believe Saturday's whale killing will affect the tribe's application.

But Tribal Chairman Ben Johnson Jr. said he feared it has damaged the tribe's case - both with the fisheries service and the public.

"We know it's going to hurt," Johnson told the Peninsula Daily News.

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