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

Overview

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.

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Jonathan Raban The New York Review of Books A book that is at once enthralling, fair-minded, and very funny.

Nathaniel Philbrick The New York Times Book Review Marvelous...Sullivan has a very Ishmael-like talent for being both funny and generous, and at times A Whale Hunt reads like Cool Runnings meets Northern Exposure.

Larry McMurtry A good book about the difficulties of keeping a cultural and tribal tradition alive in the present day. Mr. Sullivan's account is sensitive, moving, and sad.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1999, a small armada of animal rights activists, TV crews and Coast Guard ships swarmed around a canoe off the coast of Washington State carrying seven Makah Indians as they hunted and killed a gray whale for the first time in living memory. The activists were attempting to halt the slaughter of an animal only recently removed from the endangered species list, while the Makahs were reviving a whaling tradition that had been dormant for generations. For visiting journalist Sullivan (who made a splash last year with his quirky natural and social history of The Meadowlands of New Jersey), it was an irresistible story. Sullivan--who writes like a hipper, edgier William Least Heat Moon and spent two years with the Makah--gives a kind of outsider's insider view of the hunt's preparation and aftermath, from the private anxieties of the tribespeople to the external pressure from the U.S. government, which insisted that the whale be killed "humanely" with a bullet in the brain immediately after the harpoon strike. He also provides funny commentary on subjects like neighboring Seattle ("a city filled with people who walk around in technologically advanced outdoor fabrics") and the too-easily ridiculed animal rights protesters. But Sullivan never quite communicates why the whale hunt was so important to him personally, or what it really meant to the Makah themselves. Did they actually hope to restore tribal heritage and pride? Or were they merely aiming to get rich by selling whale meat to the Japanese, as the animal rights protestors alleged? Sullivan mostly ducks these questions, which may disappoint those who come to this wry and sympathetic account for a hard-hitting look at the issues it raises, rather than to ride along with its engaging author. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
New York-based freelance writer Sullivan () chronicles two years he spent at the center of a controversy that pitted two cherished ideals against each other<-->protecting whales and preserving ancestral practice. The Makah, on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, resumed hunting the gray whale in the traditional manner when it was taken off the endangered species list in 1995; animal rights advocates arrived to protest. There is no index. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Nat Philbrick
Marvelous . . . A muted and real reflection of our contemporary situation . . . Once you get beyond the uproar and the politics, Sullivan seems to be saying, we are all just people, trying to find meaning in a most confusing and changeable world.
New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
American Indians and whales collide in this resounding work of environmental and ethnographic reportage by the author of the quirky travel book Meadowlands (1998).
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684864341
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 5/7/2002
  • Edition description: First Touchstone Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 0.65 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 8.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Sullivan

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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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 2: The Car Ride

I remember exactly where I was when I read that the Makah were going whaling, when I felt suddenly compelled to go to my map and point to Cape Flattery, when I felt the place calling me. I was at home in the kitchen and it was one and a half years before the Makah actually threw a harpoon at a whale. I'd just heard on the radio that they wanted to try, and I was amazed, of course, that anybody would want to even attempt to hunt a whale, what with a whale's size and its connotations, and I was amazed that whale hunting was part of the tradition of this place I'd never even heard of before, even if that tradition had died or was disused. But in the beginning, it was the cape itself that most amazed me, just the idea of the place. I'd been living in the great Pacific Northwest for several years, and Cape Flattery was always one of those spots that cried out to me from my atlas as I studied it in the evenings, prowling America's far corner and all its farthest-away places for the nourishment of my about-to-go-to-bed soul: it is a place where the road north and west ends emphatically, a peninsula that reaches out to the sea, to the vast aquamarine-colored area that is — in the color codes of my map, anyway — not described, as if infinite and immeasurable. It's where the tip of America meets the North Pacific, where the water seems charged and about-to-be roiled, like the water off the bow of a ship.

My work being what it is, I generally go to places as a reporter, as a filer of facts for hire, so after Cape Flattery called me, I made a few calls myself, and, in time, found a magazine editor who hired me to type up a quick and simple report on the tribe's plans, a few paragraphs that would pay for my way there. I set aside a few days to check things out. Then, just before dawn on a drizzly fall morning, I stuffed the trunk of my car with raincoats and boots, filled a thermos with coffee, grabbed my brand-new copy of Moby-Dick, which I had never read and which seemed like a good book to take along, and I set off to see how the Makah would go about hunting a whale.a If I had known then that as a result of that day's drive I would be compelled to repeat that six- and sometimes seven-hour drive so many times over the course of the next two years that I can now describe every chain-saw sculpture along the road in my sleep; if I had known that I would be living for weeks on the edge of the woods in a cold, damp shack or often in an old tent that was so leaky that I finally had to break down and buy a new one, which was better but still leaked sometimes; if I had known that I would eventually be compelled to temporarily abandon my family and drive for days along the length of the West Coast of North America in hopes of touching a whale in a tropical lagoon in Mexico; if I had known that I would sit in a hot, dark sweat lodge and think about my soul or the soul of anybody else, for that matter; if I had known that I would end up diving nearly naked into the ice-cold winter water around Cape Flattery or end up going out on little boats that were chased by animal rights activists whom I didn't have anything against really — if I had known any of that before I took off that drizzly fall morning, I might have stayed in bed.

On that autumn morning, shortly after I pulled out of my driveway in Portland, I felt the secret expectancy of the beginning of a long trip, an excited shiver. I got on the interstate and crossed the wide Columbia River, which runs through the Northwest like a spinal cord, and I saw Mount Hood, the glacier-topped volcano that stands up in the Cascade Range, cutting a black silhouette against the red rising-sun sky. I drove past suburban developments and car dealerships, past Mount Saint Helens and the huge drumlins of ash left over from Mount Saint Helens' last explosion, past tree farms and paper mills and aluminum plants and rivers such as the Lewis and the Kalama, the Cowlitz and the Skookumchuck. Sometimes, I passed trucks carrying cut trees and sometimes the same trucks passed me in a plume of forest rain, violent sixty-five-mile-an-hour weather systems. Above me, gray clouds herded over the road faster than I could believe.

For the first couple of hours on my trip, I was headed in the direction of Seattle, which is a sophisticated city, a city with happening restaurants and specialty coffees and whole-grain muffins, a city filled with people who walk around in technologically advanced outdoor fabrics, who work for software companies and Internet sites and live on a series of beautiful lakes and bays — a place where, in general, you will not see a lot of whale hunting going on, much less hunting of any kind. But halfway to Seattle I turned left, which is to say west, and I worked my way onto the Olympic Peninsula. The Olympic Peninsula is not Seattle; it is Seattle's sometimes-still-wild backyard, the place where residents go to commune with nature or to ponder their place in the universe or to do what most people in Seattle do when they head for the woods, what is a kind of postindustrial ritual: utilize state-of-the-art outdoor gear.

The Olympic Peninsula is a Connecticut-sized land of mountains and rivers, of state parks and timber mills, of vistas that sometimes look scenic and sometimes look chewed up, fields left for logged. At the heart of the Olympic Peninsula is Olympic National Park, which was first designated a park by President Theodore Roosevelt, who hoped to preserve the indigenous elk population in the Olympic Mountains and who was an avid elk hunter. Taverns stand in for postmodern restaurants serving French-Thai food on the Olympic Peninsula; llama farms stand in for corporate campuses; people are as likely to hunt and fish as kayak and hike. Once, in a gas station on the peninsula — in a particularly clean and friendly place across from a yard where acres of trees that had recently been converted to telephone poles were waiting to be strung with wires — I watched a man drive up with a dead deer in the back of his pickup truck. He was a logger and he'd spotted the deer while he was in the midst of chainsawing a tree; he had grabbed his rifle just in time. At the gas station, he posed for a Polaroid picture of himself and the dead deer that was subsequently posted on the bulletin board across from the men's room: in the photo, blood splashed across the logger's face and his sawdust-covered work shirt and jeans; the deer's eyes were far away.

The Olympic Peninsula is, geologically speaking, like an island that is nearly still out at sea. Fifty-five million years ago, off the coast of what was then becoming the North American continent, the Olympic Peninsula was a collection of sand and sediments. Basalt remains of underwater volcanic eruptions were later thrown in, and over a period of millions of years, all of it was eventually forced up and out of the ocean and smashed into the rest of North America. When these two enormous slabs of rock met, they ground into each other with immeasurable force: according to the Olympic National Park's literature, the earthquakes that resulted were "more violent than any the modern world has seen." The mountains that the Olympic Peninsula ended up with as a result aren't especially tall as far as western mountain ranges go, but they are tall given their proximity to the Pacific. They stand and stare the ocean wind straight in the eye and collect the moisture from the sky like eight-thousand-foot-high rain gauges. And there is a lot of moisture to collect: in the rain forest at the center of the Olympics the yearly rainfall count is between twelve and fourteen feet. Rain is the theme of the Olympic Peninsula.

As it rained and rained and eventually poured on the day I first drove up to Cape Flattery, I imagined that one rainy night the Chehalis River might again cut the peninsula off completely and cast it away. Eventually, I came to Aberdeen, on Grays Harbor, where fog mixed with the steam from the pulp mills, where huge yards were filled with piles of logs the size of discount office-supply stores (piles of logs that are small compared with what they have been traditionally). I passed through Hoquiam, another old logging town; through a logging town called Humptulips, and then through the logged and unlogged woods and over the rivers raging down from the peaks of the Olympics. I passed a clear-cut that had recently been set on fire — a forest management practice that halfheartedly mimics an actual forest fire burn: a faux inferno. I drove through an alley of huge cedar and Douglas fir trees that darkened the road despite the clearing sky. And then, all of a sudden, the woods opened up like a curtain to feature the Pacific Ocean. From the edge of the Olympics' forest, the Pacific looks so big and vast that it commands you to park at the tree line and walk into the dark gray sand and feel the foamy coldness on your feet and wade in a ways. When I was back on the road, the glacier-covered mountains at the heart of the Olympics peeked over not-so-faraway ridges. Just past the town of Forks, a road sign advertised the ancient land of the Makah at last. It said: MOST N.W. POINT.

The road to Neah Bay is serpentine, a thin twist of wet double-yellow-lined gray. It flirts for twenty miles with the edge of cliffs that seem to stand at the mercy of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and its wide swath of soon- to-be Pacific Ocean. Mapmakers mark it as scenic when it would be better marked IMAX: waterfalls and cliffs and mud slides on the left; white-capped blue water dotted with tall, just-off-the-shore rock formations on the right. I could see Vancouver Island, in Canada, across the vast strait and through the clearing sky. Its mountains were topped with snow and clouds.

And out in the water, I looked for whales — I looked as long as I dared, that is, until I remembered the road and the hairpin turns and then jerked the steering wheel back toward land. And while I was looking and jerking and swearing and doing my best to stay alive, I got whale on the brain: the idea of one floated in my head like a portent.

The sight of this creature in my mind's eye contributed to the concerns I had vis-à-vis my life on this dizzyingly beautiful cliff-side road, so that by the time I pulled into Neah Bay, and saw the boats tied up peacefully in the marina, and the little houses tucked gently beneath the Olympic Peninsula's most western peaks (the very last hills before the sea), I was hunched over the wheel and exhausted.

Copyright © 2000 by Robert Sullivan

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Table of Contents

Contents

1. Editorials

2. The Car Ride

3. Cape Flattery

4. The Cape Motel

5. The Museum

6. The Crew

7. A Descendant of Kings

8. Squire

9. The Captain

10. The Whaler — An Ancient View

11. The Whaler — A Modern View

12. The Canoe

13. Details

14. The Protestors

15. Whalers of the World

16. Potlach

17. Whales

18. The Grayness of the Whale

19. Donnie Doesn't Kill a Seal

20. All Riled Up

21. The Experiment

22. Enter the Protestors

23. Prophets

24. The Media Arrive

25. The Shanty

26. Preparations

27. The Crew Comes Upon a Whale and Decides Not to Hunt It

28. Exit the Protestors

29. On Watch

30. A Prayer Closet

31. Q & A

32. The Resident Issue

33. The Prince of Monaco

34. On the Beach

35. Evil

36. Slaves

37. The Negatives

38. Cast Away

39. Stories

40. Truce

41. The Problem

42. A Promotion

43. Follow the Whale

44. Save the Whales

45. On Late-Twentieth-Century Pictures of Whales

46. Good Verus Evil

47. Los Angeles

48. A Vision

49. On the Road to Baja

50. Scammon

51. Salt

52. Touched

53. Back in Neah Bay

54. On the Job

55. Wayne to Court

56. The Germans Weren't Around

57. Responsibility

58. Sensible

59. A Hand

60. Fish-in

61. Painkiller

62. Fuck-Ups

63. The Shakers Are Coming

64. A Bullet

65. A Leak

66. Anchored

67. Red-Faced

68. Whales Are Everywhere

69. Alone

70. Wayne Meets Theron

71. Stuck

72. Wayne

73. The Peak

74. A Hunt — Day One

75. A Hunt — Day Two

76. A Hunt — Day Three

77. After a Whale Is Dead

NOTES

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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Introduction

Reading Group Guide

A Whale Hunt By Robert Sullivan

Scribner, 0-684-86433-9, $25.00

"Marvelous...Sullivan has a very Ishmael-like talent for being both funny and generous, and at times A Whale Hunt reads like "Cool Runnings" meets "Northern Exposure."

— Nathaniel Philbrick, in The New York Times Book Review

"A rich story, at turns ironic and bemusing, sad and funny...an adventure of the imagination. If books are journeys then Sullivan is a meandering, back-roads kind of driver."

USA Today

"A hilarious, bone-true portrait of Makah life...Sullivan captures, with curiosity and empathy, the sighing and breathing of a culture fighting to stay alive."

Outside magazine

Esteemed writer Robert Sullivan here explores the story of a proud people fighting against outside criticism and internal strife. In 1994, the Makah, a Native American tribe located at the northwestern tip of the United States, decided to restore an ancient tradition as a new millennium loomed. In 1997, Sullivan arrived at the tribe's home, Neah Bay, to witness the Makah's ceremonial killing of a gray whale.

Set against the awe-inspiring scenery of the Pacific Northwest, the book is a distinctly modern tale: Though it chronicles a historic tradition, and speaks of bygone eras, it also could not have happened the way it did without the steadfast opposition of the animal rights movement. The world watches as the Makah, the media and many protestors create a deeply complicated morality play.

Through the months of the simmering conflict, Sullivan takes the reader ona journey that includes whale-watching in Mexico, exploring both the charms and disappointments of Neah Bay, and finally, taking to thewater for the book's fevered climax.

Like Moby Dick, Herman Melville's classic that inevitably serves as the spiritual backdrop of the Makah story, A Whale Hunt is a book of obsession, fortitude, and the strength of internal and external boundaries.

Questions for A Whale Hunt

1. Robert Sullivan begins A Whale Hunt with a series of primary documents — newspaper columns, letters to the editor, tribal songs, etc. — detailing the story's central conflict. Why do you think Sullivan chose to open the book this way? Do you the think the chosen excerpts are biased toward one side or the other? If so, do you think this influence was intended?

2. Why do you think Sullivan refers to Moby Dick and the life of Herman Melville throughout the book in footnotes? Lewis Mumford is quoted as saying about Moby Dick: "Melville sets out to teach us nothing." Is this true of Sullivan? If not, what is he trying to teach?

3. Neah Bay's unique history is evident, yet there are signs that it could be any remote town in modern-day America. There are moments in the book when the town's old and new cultures are shown co-existing, as when a crew member passes "in an old sedan out of which music was blaring." How did these contrasts affect the book's tone? What was your strongest impression of Neah Bay's culture?

4. What has made the whale such a strong symbol of the animal rights movement? How would the story have been different if it revolved around the hunting of another animal? Would it have been as emotionally compelling?

5. To what degree do you feel compassion toward certain animals? Are your feelings dependent on the kind of intelligence exhibited by the animal or the animal's ability to feel pain? How strong are your animal-rights convictions? Were they altered at all by reading this book? Why or why not?

6. How does Sullivan use humor to navigate the issues raised by the hunt? And, how does humor matter to the people involved in the hunt?

7. Paul Watson called the Coast Guard's focus on protestors' activities during the whale hunt "ludicrous". Do you agree? Throughout the story, did you feel the protestors were treated fairly? Should they have been given more or less leniency for their actions?

8. At one point, Wayne Johnson says: "This thing has become so much more than we ever imagined. Now, it's like we have to do it...with all the media and all the people watching us, we have to do it." What effect did the media and the protestors have on the hunt? Would the Makah effort have stalled without its fight against this organized resistance? Do you think most traditions are made stronger or weaker by outside resistance?

9. Recall the intimidating strength of Theron Parker, the reluctant leadership of Wayne Johnson, the steadfast opposition of Paul Watson. Which character's emotional reactions most closely mirrored your own? Which character would you liked to have learned more about?

10. Were there times in the book when it seemed the hunt would never be completed? When did it seem least likely to occur? Did the events leading up to the hunt strongly foreshadow its success or failure? How?

11. Early in the book, and again toward its close, the tribe's members talk of the hunt's spiritual meaning. Some crew members downplay the spiritual aspects of the hunt, while others pray and take part in other ceremonial rituals once the hunt is finished. Does spiritual intent affect your judgment of the tradition and, if so, how? Are there traditions in your life that are only understandable within their spiritual context? If so, what are they?

12. Sullivan writes: "In the end, it seemed ridiculous to try to experience a whaler's religious experience; it seemed absurd to attempt to simulate someone else's spiritual tradition." Do you agree?

13. Sullivan refers to the tribe's expedition as a "modern yet ancient ceremonial whale hunt". In what ways is it modern? In what ways ancient? As we judge traditions across cultural boundaries, what role should history play? To what degree do you partake in traditions because of their historic importance?

14. How does America's historic treatment of Native Americans affect your feelings about the tribe's desires? How does Sullivan handle this component of the story?

14. Discuss the aftermath of the whale hunt, and how you think it will affect the future. Are the Makah likely to continue their tradition? Will protest die down or increase? What do you think will happen to the people featured in the book?

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide

A Whale Hunt By Robert Sullivan

Scribner, 0-684-86433-9, $25.00

"Marvelous...Sullivan has a very Ishmael-like talent for being both funny and generous, and at times A Whale Hunt reads like "Cool Runnings" meets "Northern Exposure."

— Nathaniel Philbrick, in The New York Times Book Review

"A rich story, at turns ironic and bemusing, sad and funny...an adventure of the imagination. If books are journeys then Sullivan is a meandering, back-roads kind of driver."

USA Today

"A hilarious, bone-true portrait of Makah life...Sullivan captures, with curiosity and empathy, the sighing and breathing of a culture fighting to stay alive."

Outside magazine

Esteemed writer Robert Sullivan here explores the story of a proud people fighting against outside criticism and internal strife. In 1994, the Makah, a Native American tribe located at the northwestern tip of the United States, decided to restore an ancient tradition as a new millennium loomed. In 1997, Sullivan arrived at the tribe's home, Neah Bay, to witness the Makah's ceremonial killing of a gray whale.

Set against the awe-inspiring scenery of the Pacific Northwest, the book is a distinctly modern tale: Though it chronicles a historic tradition, and speaks of bygone eras, it also could not have happened the way it did without the steadfast opposition of the animal rights movement. The world watches as the Makah, the media and many protestors create a deeply complicated morality play.

Through the months of the simmering conflict, Sullivan takes the reader on a journey that includes whale-watching in Mexico, exploring both the charms and disappointments of Neah Bay, and finally, taking to thewater for the book's fevered climax.

Like Moby Dick, Herman Melville's classic that inevitably serves as the spiritual backdrop of the Makah story, A Whale Hunt is a book of obsession, fortitude, and the strength of internal and external boundaries.

Questions for A Whale Hunt

1. Robert Sullivan begins A Whale Hunt with a series of primary documents — newspaper columns, letters to the editor, tribal songs, etc. — detailing the story's central conflict. Why do you think Sullivan chose to open the book this way? Do you the think the chosen excerpts are biased toward one side or the other? If so, do you think this influence was intended?

2. Why do you think Sullivan refers to Moby Dick and the life of Herman Melville throughout the book in footnotes? Lewis Mumford is quoted as saying about Moby Dick: "Melville sets out to teach us nothing." Is this true of Sullivan? If not, what is he trying to teach?

3. Neah Bay's unique history is evident, yet there are signs that it could be any remote town in modern-day America. There are moments in the book when the town's old and new cultures are shown co-existing, as when a crew member passes "in an old sedan out of which music was blaring." How did these contrasts affect the book's tone? What was your strongest impression of Neah Bay's culture?

4. What has made the whale such a strong symbol of the animal rights movement? How would the story have been different if it revolved around the hunting of another animal? Would it have been as emotionally compelling?

5. To what degree do you feel compassion toward certain animals? Are your feelings dependent on the kind of intelligence exhibited by the animal or the animal's ability to feel pain? How strong are your animal-rights convictions? Were they altered at all by reading this book? Why or why not?

6. How does Sullivan use humor to navigate the issues raised by the hunt? And, how does humor matter to the people involved in the hunt?

7. Paul Watson called the Coast Guard's focus on protestors' activities during the whale hunt "ludicrous". Do you agree? Throughout the story, did you feel the protestors were treated fairly? Should they have been given more or less leniency for their actions?

8. At one point, Wayne Johnson says: "This thing has become so much more than we ever imagined. Now, it's like we have to do it...with all the media and all the people watching us, we have to do it." What effect did the media and the protestors have on the hunt? Would the Makah effort have stalled without its fight against this organized resistance? Do you think most traditions are made stronger or weaker by outside resistance?

9. Recall the intimidating strength of Theron Parker, the reluctant leadership of Wayne Johnson, the steadfast opposition of Paul Watson. Which character's emotional reactions most closely mirrored your own? Which character would you liked to have learned more about?

10. Were there times in the book when it seemed the hunt would never be completed? When did it seem least likely to occur? Did the events leading up to the hunt strongly foreshadow its success or failure? How?

11. Early in the book, and again toward its close, the tribe's members talk of the hunt's spiritual meaning. Some crew members downplay the spiritual aspects of the hunt, while others pray and take part in other ceremonial rituals once the hunt is finished. Does spiritual intent affect your judgment of the tradition and, if so, how? Are there traditions in your life that are only understandable within their spiritual context? If so, what are they?

12. Sullivan writes: "In the end, it seemed ridiculous to try to experience a whaler's religious experience; it seemed absurd to attempt to simulate someone else's spiritual tradition." Do you agree?

13. Sullivan refers to the tribe's expedition as a "modern yet ancient ceremonial whale hunt". In what ways is it modern? In what ways ancient? As we judge traditions across cultural boundaries, what role should history play? To what degree do you partake in traditions because of their historic importance?

14. How does America's historic treatment of Native Americans affect your feelings about the tribe's desires? How does Sullivan handle this component of the story?

14. Discuss the aftermath of the whale hunt, and how you think it will affect the future. Are the Makah likely to continue their tradition? Will protest die down or increase? What do you think will happen to the people featured in the book?

Read More Show Less

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2007

    A Whale Hunt Review

    I think that 'A Whale Hunt' by Robert Sullivan, is slow and doesn¿t progress much throughout the story. I did not enjoy reading this book much it seemed like a book to be read for learning about history, and would not be read for pleasure. The only two interesting parts, I thought, was at the beginning: when he was explaining the history of whale hunting, and the Culture of the Makah, in the chapter ¿the Museum¿, where he talks about the Makah museum, and the cultural art, and the chapter ¿Cape Flattery¿, where he talked about the Makah¿s land treaty with the government. The second interesting part was at the end: when the Makah started hunting the whale, in the last four chapters of the book. In the middle there is hardly any plot, he is just explaining what he did in his daily life, and the whale protesters. The Makah only started hunting the whale in the last 30 pages, and the book is about 280 pages long. The main book is not about the whale hunt, it is more about the controversy over whale hunting. Most of the plot was dull and boring. Some parts were exiting and interesting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2007

    Ok, But boring

    The title of this book is deceiving. It is more about the controversy behind the whale hunt than the whale hunt itself. This is a better book for people that want to learn about the argument between the anti-whalers and the whalers, not the actual hunt. The entire book is about two hundred seventy five pages long they start hunting a page two hundred forty. One of the chapters is called 'The crew comes upon a whale but decides not to hunt it' Which just gives the chapter away. The main character in the book (the author) goes on a trip to see the whales and leaves Neah Bay completely. I am not a very patient person and this got really boring for me and if it weren't a book that we were reading for school I would have set it down. My final verdict: a slow boring read about modern whaling. It had its highs and lows.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2007

    A Whale Hunt- Good Material But a Slow Read

    It had good material, but there was very little action going on except for little tidbits here and there. The hunt was only several chapters long at the end. There were some parts that were off-topic stuff. Although interesting, it made it slower to plough through. I also didn't like how Sullivan kept referring to Herman Melville and Moby-Dick. It was okay at first, but it got repetitive. There was enough material about Melville and his book that you could write a biography about him. I also didn't understand why there had to be 77 one page chapters, most of which weren't about the whale hunt or the Makah at all. Except for all these issues, the book was okay. Overall, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, especially someone young or during a boring summer.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2003

    A Whale Hunt: from as close to the inside as you can get.

    Although Mr Sullivan gained a little knoweledge from friends he met on his journey, He can never understand the How and Why of the Hunt. This is something that you are born to, and you gain your true knowledge from the heart. I loved the book, very easy to read. As I said, as close as he could get, he did a very thaughtful investigation on the Hunt. Thank You

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