Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. VII No. 4 October 1998


"Peace to the Whales"

by Brent Hall, CSI Board


October 4 rally. Photo by Robbins Barstow.
Rally photo

On Sunday, 4 October 1998, Cetacean Society International sponsored a peaceful rally at the beautiful Wethersfield Cove in central Connecticut, whose theme was "Peace to the Whales". After an introductory statement by CSI's Director Emeritus Robbins Barstow, Wethersfield State Representative Paul Doyle read an Official Statement from Connecticut Governor John Rowland designating the week of October 4 as "Whale Awareness Week". Then Tom Callinan, CSI Board member and Connecticut's first official State Troubadour, presented his song, "Makah Choices", that he had just composed for this occasion:

Makah Choices

The global eye's focused north to Neah Bay,
Where Makahs are determined to revive their old ways.
They've got the right to save or to slay
Five peaceful gray whales in Juan Fuca's Strait.

REFRAIN: What's to be gained by killing gray whales?
Which leader's vision has tipped tribal scales?
How will their Shaman remember this tale?
Did today's Makah tribesmen hunt or save the gray whale?

The choice for Makahs is whether to strike
And kill five gray whales for ceremonial rites.
Their treaty permits it, it's there in black and white;
But does their right to proceed supercede what is right?
REFRAIN

Makah aged sages themselves have not seen
Their tribesmen kill gray whales since their early teens.
Three score and ten years have passed in between;
Seven decades, no whaling - what's "traditional" mean?
REFRAIN

Today the world is a much different place,
What once brought glory, now breeds distaste.
By saving those whales, Makahs could save face;
Not harpoons or rifles, but with cameras make chase.
REFRAIN

But Makahs must determine their own destiny,
Well-meaning outsiders simply can't see.
We can pray they'll turn back, and let the whales be,
To cherish the living, not bloody the sea.
REFRAIN

(Words and music By Tom Callinan. Copyright 1998, Cannu Yusic, Ltd.)

This was followed by remarks by CSI Past President Don Sineti and CSI Board member Kate O'Connell about the Makah people and their Neah Bay Reservation on the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington, both having been there to meet with the Makah people.

Robbins Barstow then read the following CSI "Open Letter to the Makah Whaling Commission", published in the Peninsula Daily News in Washington, which expresses among other things the reasons for today's gathering:

An Open Letter to the Makah Whaling Commission

We address you with respect and caring at a critical and controversial time in your tribal life. You have undertaken, with courage and determination and at considerable risk, to resurrect an ancient tradition involving the killing of the great Gray Whale. For at least some of you, this must have been a difficult choice. For if indeed you do have a legal and a moral right to kill these whales, you also have a legal and a moral right not to kill them.

For many, many people all around the world, whales are sacred animals. Because of their great size and beauty and grace and power, and because of their basic gentleness when not attacked, whales have come to be revered and cared for by people of all ages and backgrounds and from many different cultures. Whereas in earlier centuries, whales were widely regarded as valuable natural resources to be exploited for food and profit, in the latter part of this century, whales have come to be widely regarded as valuable living resources to be honored and protected. Both tangibly and intangibly, whales are now felt to be worth more alive than dead.

Those of us who hold whales in awe, as sacred embodiments of the wonder and majesty of life on our water planet, are deeply grieved by your decision to exercise your right to kill these special creatures. We plan publicly to express our grief in peaceful gatherings of concerned whale believers, in various parts of the world, on Sunday, October 4, 1998. Some of us plan to engage in a 24-hour fast to register our spiritual pain and to pray for "Peace to the Whales."

We wish to disassociate ourselves from the reported confrontational tactics advocated by some, and we expressly renounce any efforts or threats to oppose your whaling activities by force or violence.

We pray for consideration by members of the Makah tribe of alternative ways to uphold your tribal ties to the great Gray Whales - ways that will demonstrate reverence for life and will provide for the benign utilization of whale resources, such as Makah-operated whalewatching enterprises, whale observation, and scientific research.

We pray for the day to come when the Makahs, and all humans, will enjoy a creative relationship with their giant neighbors in the sea, based upon peaceful coexistence and mutual enrichment.

Sincerely and respectfully yours,

William W. Rossiter, CSI President
Robbins Barstow, Director Emeritus
Donald Sineti, Past President

Wethersfield Mayor Wayne Sassano then read his proclamation designating October 4 as "Peace to the Whales Day" in Wethersfield. This was followed by a public prayer for humans and whales by the Rev. Jey Deifell, Senior Minister of First Church of Christ, Wethersfield. The program continued with songs by Don Sineti, the reading of an excerpt from Heathcote Williams' book, "Whale Nation", by CSI Board member Sue Wachtelhausen, and the playing of a recording of humpback whale song made by CSI Board member Paul Knapp, Jr.

The program concluded with a symbolic "March to the Sea". Sue Wachtelhausen and Paul Knapp launched a canoe from the Cove dock, and with a local school student paddled the canoe out from the Cove through the narrow entrance channel to the Connecticut River. At the same time, rally participants followed alongside the canoe route out to the edge of the river. The canoeists then tossed five Hawaiian leis, one for each of the five gray whales, into the water of the river flowing down to the sea, so that at least in spirit they might circle the continent and arrive in the waters of Neah Bay.

The canoeists in the Connecticut River.
Photo by Meg Barstow.
Canoe photo

Group photo after the rally.
Group photo

The Cetacean Society International has made a documentary video of the "Peace to the Whales" Rally held in Wethersfield, CT, on 4 October 1998. Copies of the 75-minute tape may be secured at a cost of $20 (postage included) from: Robbins Barstow, 190 Stillwold Drive, Wethersfield, CT 06109 USA. (Phone: 860-563-2565)


Go to next article: Noise in the Oceans: How Much Is Too Much? or: Table of Contents.

© Copyright 1998, Cetacean Society International, Inc.

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