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A Whale Hunt

A Whale Hunt

How a Native-American Village Did What No One Thought It Could

  • reading group guide
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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  • Scribner | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780684864341 | 
  • May 2002
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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 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 Ma see more

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