A Whale Hunt: How a Native-American Village Did What No One Thought It Could

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9780684864341: A Whale Hunt: How a Native-American Village Did What No One Thought It Could

For centuries the hunting of the whale was what defined the Makah, a Native American tribe in Neah Bay, but when commercial whaling drove the gray whale to near extinction in the 1920s, the Makah voluntarily discontinued their tradition and hung up their harpoons. In 1994, after the gray whale was taken off the endangered species list, the Makah decided to hunt again. The problem was that all the old whalers were dead -- no one knew how to go about hunting a whale.
A Whale Hunt chronicles the two years Robert Sullivan spends with the Makah as they prepare for and stage the first hunt. Combating tribal infighting and inexperience, they must also face passionate, furious animal rights activists and swarming reporters. Before the ragtag group of hunters even pursues a whale, there are clashes, disappointments, and defeats, small triumphs and unexpected heroes.
A book of many layers and revelations, A Whale Hunt is the story of the demise and attempted resurrection of a Native American nation and of the individuals on the reservation whose lives are forever changed.

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Review:

On May 17, 1999, a crew of Makah Indians dug their paddles hard into the Pacific chop, came alongside their target, and for the first time in seven decades harpooned and killed a gray whale. News helicopters relayed footage of the "event" to television screens around the country. Protesters, kept at bay by Coast Guard cutters, blasted enraged bullhorns. Native Americans from tribes across the continent cheered in solidarity. Other U.S. citizens paused to watch, then debated some more.

Whales breach and sound through our collective imagination. They're smart. They communicate across the seas by song. But for centuries whalers slaughtered them in unspeakable numbers. Eventually people called for an end to industrial whaling. Enter the Makah, a small tribe in an isolated corner of Washington State that seeks to exercise its treaty rights and revive an ancient tradition. Robert Sullivan (The Meadowlands) spent two years visiting the mist-shrouded Makah Nation on Neah Bay to record what the fuss was about. He got to know the whaling participants personally, and he also met the protesters. He even followed by car the 5,000-mile whale migration, the longest of any mammalian species, down the coast to Baja and the birthing grounds. The result of his reportage is a closely observed portrait of one community's transformation--its "blood transfusion," as an elder calls it--as well as the spouting controversy.

Sullivan tries not to take sides, but his sympathies are apparent. Animal rights activists come across as committed yet arrogant and self-righteous. For instance, the husband-and-wife founders of In the Path of Giants, a touring company and antiwhaling advocacy group, believe they can convince the Makah, with the aid of a slideshow, to take up whale watching instead of hunting, adding, "We can help them." More interesting to Sullivan than the controversy, however, is "what it would be like to try to kill a bus-sized mammal." He conveys the wonder of the Makah's enterprise (hunt a whale? in a canoe?) as well as the mundane chores (find the right harpoon shaft, pass a swimming test, practice paddling). It is this accumulation of detail rather than the politics or the acrimony that brings the book to life. Anchoring it is a narrative structure borrowed (with a few winks) from Moby-Dick as well as a series of footnotes drawing parallels between Melville's masterpiece and the Makah's endeavor.

Sullivan also aims a few of his own harpoons--primarily at the media leviathan--as rhetoric increasingly rules the day in the weeks and months leading up to the kill. "We're not any different from any other community in the world," remarks a tribal member, "except that now everybody's watching us." Despite the close focus, Sullivan suggests that one of the many ironies of global connectivity and media saturation is an even greater distancing between one and the other, expertly parodying this distance in the final moments before the kill:

With the whaling canoe moving closer and closer to one whale, with the specter of this whale moving closer and closer to the surface ... with the whale hunt about to become an actuality, a done deed, the morning television host announced the following to the commuter at home, as if he were calling a prizefight or watching the police chase a runaway car: "Time is clearly running out for this whale."

Indeed, there is a sense of the clock running out for everyone involved. A wistfulness for times gone by permeates A Whale Hunt like a coastal fog that will not lift. The land, marred by clearcuts and oil spills, is not what it used to be; the legendary salmon runs are nearly gone, victims of dams, overfishing, development; the tribal members are searching in vain for jobs and meaning. It is an altered landscape, inhabited by an altered tribe trying to hold on to the last vestiges of its once-great history. --Langdon Cook

About the Author:

Robert Sullivan is the author of The Meadowlands, also a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. A contributing editor at Vogue, his work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times Book Review. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Descripción SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2002. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.For centuries the hunting of the whale was what defined the Makah, a Native American tribe in Neah Bay, but when commercial whaling drove the gray whale to near extinction in the 1920s, the Makah voluntarily discontinued their tradition and hung up their harpoons. In 1994, after the gray whale was taken off the endangered species list, the Makah decided to hunt again. The problem was that all the old whalers were dead -- no one knew how to go about hunting a whale. A Whale Hunt chronicles the two years Robert Sullivan spends with the Makah as they prepare for and stage the first hunt. Combating tribal infighting and inexperience, they must also face passionate, furious animal rights activists and swarming reporters. Before the ragtag group of hunters even pursues a whale, there are clashes, disappointments, and defeats, small triumphs and unexpected heroes. A book of many layers and revelations, A Whale Hunt is the story of the demise and attempted resurrection of a Native American nation and of the individuals on the reservation whose lives are forever changed. Nº de ref. de la librería AAV9780684864341

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Descripción SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2002. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. For centuries the hunting of the whale was what defined the Makah, a Native American tribe in Neah Bay, but when commercial whaling drove the gray whale to near extinction in the 1920s, the Makah voluntarily discontinued their tradition and hung up their harpoons. In 1994, after the gray whale was taken off the endangered species list, the Makah decided to hunt again. The problem was that all the old whalers were dead -- no one knew how to go about hunting a whale. A Whale Hunt chronicles the two years Robert Sullivan spends with the Makah as they prepare for and stage the first hunt. Combating tribal infighting and inexperience, they must also face passionate, furious animal rights activists and swarming reporters. Before the ragtag group of hunters even pursues a whale, there are clashes, disappointments, and defeats, small triumphs and unexpected heroes. A book of many layers and revelations, A Whale Hunt is the story of the demise and attempted resurrection of a Native American nation and of the individuals on the reservation whose lives are forever changed. Nº de ref. de la librería AAV9780684864341

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Descripción SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2002. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. For centuries the hunting of the whale was what defined the Makah, a Native American tribe in Neah Bay, but when commercial whaling drove the gray whale to near extinction in the 1920s, the Makah voluntarily discontinued their tradition and hung up their harpoons. In 1994, after the gray whale was taken off the endangered species list, the Makah decided to hunt again. The problem was that all the old whalers were dead -- no one knew how to go about hunting a whale. A Whale Hunt chronicles the two years Robert Sullivan spends with the Makah as they prepare for and stage the first hunt. Combating tribal infighting and inexperience, they must also face passionate, furious animal rights activists and swarming reporters. Before the ragtag group of hunters even pursues a whale, there are clashes, disappointments, and defeats, small triumphs and unexpected heroes. A book of many layers and revelations, A Whale Hunt is the story of the demise and attempted resurrection of a Native American nation and of the individuals on the reservation whose lives are forever changed. Nº de ref. de la librería LIE9780684864341

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