Whale hunting

Whale hunting was an important and sacred tradition to the Makah Tribe. It provided goods such as blubber, oil, sinew for various products. In the 1920’s commercial whalers all but wiped out the whale population The sacred gray whale that the Makah hunted was put on the endangered list and therefore they were forbidden to hunt. The wales were taken off of the endangered list in 1994 and the Makah stated their intentions to practice their sacred tradition once again. It went to the courts for years and finally in 1999 they were able to practice again. The Makah traditions: Before the hunts men practiced sacred traditions. They would go off alone to a spot to pray, meditate. fast and bathe. It was all individual and all sacred to that person. Many weeks and sometimes months went into preparing for the hunt. When the weather condition and the condition of the ocean the men 8 to a canoe set out on the hunt, they paddled the canoes silently to the whaling grounds. The leader could tell from the patterns of the whale, when they spouted and studied the whales to know when and where they would once again break the surface of the ocean. They hunted with spears that had a detachable head, all hand made materials. The paddlers in the harpooners boat knew where to paddle and the harpooner struck below the shoulder blade to slow the whales speed. The harpoon was attached to sealskin balloons to also impede the speed of the whale and help tire it more quickly. When the whale tired and could no longer give chase they killed it with a special lance. A diver also lanced the mouth shut as to not allow water to enter the whale and make it heavier to haul. The haul could be from 10 miles to just a few miles depending on where the whale tired out and the final kill was made. The village would welcome the hunters and the whale home to the village with song. information: http://makah.com/makah-tribal-info/whaling/

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