The Makah people, a tribe of Native Americans who live in Washington state, have traditionally hunted whales as part of their cultural heritage. While some of their whale hunts (most notably a 1999 hunt) have been legal, in September 2007 five members of the tribe, acting against tribal law, shot and killed a large gray whale. The tribal members were prosecuted under Makah tribal law. One member spent five months in prison, another 90 days; the other three pleaded guilty to a violation of U.S. federal law and got two years’ probation. Although all of these sentences have been served, members of the tribe have said that “bad blood” persists between themselves and the tribal leaders to this day. Some have remarked that the 2007 incident has put a damper on relations between the Makah tribe and other jurisdictions, such as the federal government, over the already contentious whaling issue and may make it difficult for them to obtain legal clearance for future whale hunts.
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