Heal Our Planet Earth
Candidate under fire for view on whale hunt
by Ross Anderson
Animal-rights activists are pressuring the Green Party to drop its vice-presidential candidate, a Native American who supports the Makah Tribe's treaty right to hunt whales. But there are no signs the party plans to do so.
In letters and e-mails to the party, critics argue that Winona LaDuke, an Ojibway Indian from northern Minnesota, should withdraw from the Green Party ticket because she supports Makah whaling.
"If we have somehow lost ground on the issue of whales, then it must be retaken and fortified," said Stuart Chaifetz, a Green Party congressional candidate in New Jersey. "We must take a clear, hard stand against the killing of whales."
For many Green Party members, Makah whaling presents a conflict between two tenets of liberal politics: Native American treaty rights vs. protection of wildlife.
During the past two years, the Makahs have resumed their hunt for gray whales, a treaty right they had not exercised since the early 1900s. The tribe has killed one whale in that time. The Makah right to continue whaling was part of the tribe's 1855 treaty, in which it gave up claims to vast lands on the Olympic Peninsula.
Green Party leaders in Washington, D.C., did not return phone calls. But a spokesman for LaDuke has said she "supports the Makahs' right to take whales under their treaty rights."
Animal-rights activists, some of whom are involved with the party, say LaDuke's stance essentially reinforces "premeditated murders of whales" and warn that her stance could clear the way for more kills by other traditional cultures.
Green Party leaders in the Northwest concede the issue is difficult, but they insist it is not causing any rift in the party.
"I've heard no reports of people leaving the Green Party because of this issue," said Robin Denburg, campaign manager for Green congressional candidate Joe Szwaja.
Szwaja, he said, "is a strong supporter of environmental protection and of Native American treaty rights," so takes "no position" on Makah whaling.
The issue has been pushed largely by Anthony Marr, an animal-rights activist in Vancouver, B.C. The Canadian insisted that LaDuke take a stance on Makah whaling and is determined to hold her accountable for it.
"By putting a human concern over an animal concern, the Green Party is not living up to its name," Marr said. "The party is taking a lot of flak on the issue. But they're trying to keep it quiet, and I can understand why."
Ron Brandstetter, a Green Party spokesman in Portland, said most members wish the Makah Tribe would stop whaling. But the latest party platform actually strengthens its support for Native American treaty rights, he said.
"People of goodwill can come down on either side of this issue. And I guess that's why party platforms tend to be a little vague on some things."
Ross Anderson's phone message number is 206-464-2061.
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