Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

February 8, 2009

Watching for whales

By Brenda Norrell

On the coast of northern California, I am watching for whales. A whale watcher says a pair came by last weekend and she followed them for miles, watching as the whales made their way south. "We're seeing the last of the ones going south and the first of the ones going north," she offers.
In late March, or April, she said, the mothers and babies come close to the shore.
Whales, it turns out, are one of the greatest healers, a remedy for grief and hopelessness. People wait and watch, reminded, that the whales make this journey every year, traveling from the icy waters of Alaska, to the sun-drizzled coastal waters of Baja California, to have their babies. Then, the mothers and babies make their way back north, in a poetic song journey. It is more than a migration, it is one of the great mysteries of life, a cycle of renewal.
The journey is 12,000 miles from the Arctic ocean, from Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas to the Pacific Coast of Baja lagoons. The whales travel at three to five miles per hour, a slow speed for a great journey. They dive for five to 15 minutes.
The whale talking woman, a volunteer with a great whale loving society that I missed the name of, gives me a pamphlet. We are watching for the Pacific Gray Whale, Eschrichtius robustus, the Baleen whale. At birth, when the baby whale sees the world for the first time in the waters off Baja, it weighs 1,500 to 2,000 pounds. The adult weighs 35 to 45 tons.
When the females are between five and 11 years old, they are in their life giving time, birthing cycle. The gestation is 13 months, and they give birth to new babies at intervals between one and three years. But the great gray whales seldom eat during migration, breeding and calving. They live off stores of blubber from their times of indulging in the summer.
These whales, and the their neighbors in the Arctic waters, the polar bears, seals, walrus and great migrating birds, are the reason to fight the coal-burning power plants in the U.S. The black carbons from power plants, along with tailpipe exhaust, are the primary reason the Arctic ice is melting and displacing the great wild life of the Arctic, polar bears, seals and walrus, this great hope of mankind.
It is why we fight the Desert Rock power plant, Peabody Coal and all the others, along with their public relation spins to benefit wealthy corporations and self-indulgent, glory-seeking politicians. While they spin their lies, the whales are migrating south, then north again, to remind us.
The whales come by each year and remind us of the great cycle, the great mystery of Creation.
They remind us to recycle, so the ocean is not clogged with great floating islands of disposable plastic shopping bags or barges of floating worn-out cell phones. They remind of what oil spills do and warn us of what is to come. They remind us that Exxon made its biggest profit ever and no one was there to bail Americans out at the gas pumps.
The whales remind us that Barrick Gold is ready to core out the heart of the Western Shoshone's sacred Mount Tenabo, for rings of gold for the flash of celebrity, vanity and opulence. They remind us that Barrick Gold, and coal, silver, copper and diamond mining companies, are doing this to Indigenous Peoples all over the world, ripping up their lands for the corporate dollar, aided by the red light district known as the media.
The whales remind of that the youth in America are pawns for politicians' wars. When kept poor enough these precious youths will gamble away their lives for unjust wars, suicides or desertion, especially when fueled by the lies of recruiting officers who promise a comfortable office job and television commercials that deceive, promising nobility and glory rather than the reality.
The real need is for desperate youths to die on the battlefield, shed their blood under the guise of patriotism. In reality they die, not to keep America safe, but for the corporate profits of the war machine makers who bankroll the politicians. They die for the Bushes and all their friends, they die for Raytheon, Honeywell, Boeing, Halliburton, DynCorp, Elbit Systems and all the others.
The whales remind us to be vigilant. They remind us that with new nuclear power plants comes an abomination to the future of mankind, poisoned lands of stored nuclear waste and poison in the hands of power. They remind us that the US tortures, carries out secret kidnappings, under the cover of television media.
The whales remind us of the hundreds of children in Palestine, bombed and shot at point blank range by Israeli soldiers. They remind us that the elected icons in the United States did not condemn this. They remind of that the coin-operated media has been silenced, leaving Americans to their lives of denial, zombies marching to shop at Wal-Mart, to make the Wal-Mart corporate owners the richest in the world, and the laborers in sweatshops around the world, the poorest in the world.
The whales remind us that the whole world is in migration. Here in the Pacific waters are the wonders of nature, the forces of earth and all of Creation. Migration is a certainty of mankind, and has been since time immemorial.
My Navajo friend Howard McKinley, who died when he was about 100 years old, told me what the old ones said about migration. On his porch in Tse Ho Tso, "the meadow between the rocks," known as Fort Defiance, Arizona, Howard said that Navajos always migrated, but their beginning was on Navajoland, between the Four Sacred Mountains. Howard spoke of the journeys, the migrations, and a mention of "Up through the Bamboo world," of which only a mention remained of Navajo migrations in the South Pacific.
The whales remind us that unless we search for truth and justice, and beauty, we may not find it.
The whales remind us.

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