Treaty Rights Ignored: Neocolonialism and the Makah Whale Hunt
For Indigenous populations around the world, the last few centuries have been marked by colonization and economic, political, and cul- tural oppression. A few Indigenous populations have narrowly escaped subjugation, but these communities must often fight eco- nomic and political battles to keep rights to their lands and traditions. For other Indigenous communities that do not have access to the resources necessary for economic and cultural survival, it is seem- ingly only a matter of time before their lands are taken or their tradi- tions are lost, but this is not the only possible outcome.
Some of the most important ways that Indigenous communities have resisted colonialism and braved the complexity of neocolonialism are through the oral tradition and contemporary literary narratives. It is abso- lutely essential that Indigenous tribal narratives continue to reflect the significance of cultural traditions, and it is critical that individuals outside of Indigenous communities respect these narratives. Many of the current economic, political, and cultural disputes affecting Indigenous communities stem from neo colonialist attitudes about economic resources and cultural traditions. Neocolonialism appears in different guises, and neocolonialist rhetoric is rampant in discourse about Indigenous populations and underdeveloped nations.
Even the relatively recent shift from using “third world” to “underde- veloped” signifies the manifestation of terminology that reinforces a certain economic neocolonialism. The rhetoric of neocolonialism must be exposed to ensure that Indigenous communities are not sub- jected to new forms of colonization, which threaten cultural survival. Moreover, individuals should be sensitive to the persuasive and subtle nature of neocolonialism because the rhetoric of neocolonialism is rampantly apparent in the media, seriously detrimental to Indigenous youth, and undermines Indigenous tribal narratives. While there are numerous examples of neocolonialism in the world today, the focus of this paper will be an analysis of the use of neocolonialist rhetoric in discussions about the Makah Nation.
In the last decade, the Makah Nation has been in the process of revitalizing its whaling traditions, and the discourse about this revitalization reveals racist attitudes toward Indigenous peoples and the potential consequences of damaging neocolonialist rhetoric. One might not expect the state of Washington or the Pacific Northwest to be places that support neocolonialism, but the manifestation of neocolonialist rhetoric in a seemingly progressive part of the United States is a testa- ment to the ubiquitous nature of neocolonialism. It is my hope that this discussion will reveal the rhetorical strategies that individuals employ to criticize the revitalization of the Makah whale-hunting tra- dition, while also illustrating how this rhetoric presents dangerous neocolonialist points of view that undermine tribal sovereignty.