The organization in place today which recognizes the cultural significance of whaling and regulates the practices in a fair and reasonable way is the International Whaling Commission. The IWC determines the number of whales that the ecosystem can handle to lose, and allows certain groups to harvest whales as needed. Some regulations are in place to minimize the controversy surrounding this topic. (International Whaling Commission 2015)
The International Whaling Commission was created in 1946, at which point “many of the major whale stocks had been diminished due to overharvest. “ (Estes 2006 : 374) Aboriginal whaling is a term coined by the International Whaling Commission in the late 1970s. This term acts as a way of separating the cultural practice of whaling from commercial whaling. Aboriginal whaling allows for specific groups of people to exercise their rights to practice traditional cultural routines. In some First Nation’s communities, traditional practices continue to be an important part of daily life.
Aboriginal whaling in British Columbia is generalized to a specific region the people living in this region are often referred to as the Whaling People (Arima 2011: 14 ) This region spans over three hundred kilometers of Vancouver Island, and historically is an ideal location for foraging the forest and the sea. (Arima 2011: 14). There is proof from radiocarbon dating that proves the whaling people have been around for at least 4000 years (Eugene p.14). Historically, whaling is a spiritual journey, and the successful whaler will be a very intuitive person to be granted the permission to hunt the whale, usually it is the chief himself. “… from the building of the canoes, to the development of the equipment, the intense physical training, the fulfillment of spiritual preparations for the hunt, and extraordinary knowledge of the ocean…the whale hunt represented the ultimate in both physical and spiritual preparedness…” (Cote 2010: 128) Often there would be at least two canoes on an expedition, one for the chief, and one for his prerogative. (Kool 1982)
Historically the whaling people include: Chickliset, Kyuquot, Ehattesaht, Nuchatlaht, Ehatteshat, Mowachaht (previously the Nootka band), Muchalaht, Hesquiaht, Manhousat, Otsosat, Ahousaht, Kelsemat, Tla-o-qui-aht, Ucluelet, Toquaht, Uchucklesaht, Tseshaht, Hupacasath, Huu-ay-aht, Tsaqqawisa?tx, Tl’a.di.w?a.?tx, Tsoxwa’d?a.?tx, Ditidaht, Tlo.?o.wsa?tx, Wawa.x?adi?sa?tx, Qwa.ba.dow?a.?tx., Qala.yit’a?tx, Tl’oqwxwat’a?tx, Pacheedaht, Makah, Ozette.
Culturally, it is important to regard these practices as necessary. “Aboriginal subsistence means whaling, for purposes of local aboriginal consumption carried out by or on behalf of aboriginal, indigenous or native peoples who share a strong community, familial, social, and cultural ties related to a continuing traditional dependence on whaling and on the use of whales.” (Cote 2010: 133) With regard to Aboriginal Rights, indigenous people are entitled to carry out traditional subsistence activities should they be culturally relevant.
Photo Credit: William Warby
Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling. In the Arctic. Web. 29 Sept. 2015 https://iwc.int/aboriginal
Arima, E. Y., and Alan L. Hoover. The Whaling People of the West Coast of Vancouver Island and Cape Flattery. Rev. and Updated ed. Victoria: Royal BC Museum, 2011. Print.
Asha de Vos (2014) Why you should care about whale poo. http://ashadevos.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Screen-Shot-2015-01-06-at-9.01.59-am.png
Cote, Charlotte. Spirits of Our Whaling Ancestors: Revitalizing Makah and Nuu-chah-nulth Traditions. 1st ed. Vol. 1. Vancouver: UBC, 2010. Print.
Estes, J. A. Whales, Whaling, and Ocean Ecosystems. Berkeley: U of California, 2006. Print.
Kool, Richard. Northwest Coast Indian Whaling: New Considerations. Canadian Journal of Anthropology 3.1 (1982): 1-4. Web. 12 Oct. 2015.
Scammon, Charles Melville. The Marine Mammals of the North-western Coast of North America; Described and Illustrated, Together with an Account of the American Whale-fishery. New York: Dover Publications, 1968. Print