All cultures continue to change and grow. Many Deaf have drawn comparisons between the death of Native American culture and Deaf culture of today. I do not deny the parallels.
Jim's article reminded me of the great whale hunt Native Americans had in Washington state back in 1999. http://jimspoliticalthoughts.blogspot.com/2008/04/accepting-changing-of-deaf-culture-like.html
From the beginning it's been written into the Makah Treaty Rights they could hunt whales off the coast near Neah Bay, Washington. However gray whales fell under protection in the 1920s after they had been hunted to near extinction. The Makah were disallowed their whale hunting rights. In 1999, the Makah fought hard to win back their hunting rights.
As you can see the Makah didn't hunt their whale like they used to in canoes made from carved tree trunks or with bone spears. They used fiberglass canoes with back-up motor boats. They wore Helly Hanson rain gear, and they killed with high-powered metal harpoons. Large round floats kept the whale from diving under or sinking after the first hit. Cell phones helped the Makah to locate and track the whale. The coast guard was dispatched to hover nearby ensuring safety in case someone fell out of a boat.
The Makah left most of their whale carcass rotting on the beach.
You see--- the Makah don't live in huts made with whale bone and skin anymore. They live in heated homes. The Makah don't eat whale blubber. They're used to a steady diet of pepperoni pizza, hamburgers and coke like most Americans, and they buy most their food at supermarkets. When the Makah party, they don't wear stinky paint made with whale blubber. The women wear Revlon eye-shadow from RiteAid or Clinique foundation from Nordstroms. The Makah all wash with deodorized Irish Spring instead of soap made from whale blubber. The Makah don't make spears with whale bone, or carve bowls or cups with it. They don't have time because they're busy working, so they buy their tableware from Macys or Sears or wherever.
That's why the carcass rotted.
Later its bones were donated to their Makah museum.
NOW the Makah want to hunt whale again because it's their "cultural right." After the last whale hunt, many people were appalled. Even some Makah were appalled. Several admitted they hated the taste of whale blubber when they tried it in 1999. Activists protested Makah whale hunting on the basis that it's senseless to kill such a magnificent creature over "cultural rights" especially considering the (still) low population count of whales, and that very little of the whale was used by the Makah in 1999. So far, the Makah haven't been granted the right to hunt another whale since. They do not need another set of bones for the museum. In September of 2007, some Makahs hunted a whale illegally. It's their ancient Treaty RIGHT!!!
You can see the Makah motor boats in the background, the harpoon sticking out of whale with floats attached.
Is this modernization of Makah culture the "white man's" fault?
Yes, in a way it is. Long ago in the 1920s, Makah children were torn from their parents, shipped off to boarding schools and forced to learn English and a trade. Later, White people invented technology for them to use while hunting. White people established grocery stores and restaurants near Makah reservations. White people visited Makah businesses and casinos which gave them extra money to spend on all the same things White people enjoyed. White people gave them help with education, so they could become lawyers, doctors, businessmen, museum curators, school teachers and librarians.
The Makah culture is essentially gone because of White people. Still. . .putting it in perspective White culture has changed since the early 1900s too.
Or has it?
When should cultural rights supersede national values and laws? These are very tough questions that could face Deaf culture soon.