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Grad Leads Anti-Whaling Fight

By Valerie Shore

As someone who has been passionate about whales as long as she can remember, you would expect Anna Hall (BSc ‘96) to be rejoicing that the fall migration of Pacific gray whales is about to begin off the B.C. and Washington state coasts.

But she’s not. Instead, the UVic biology grad is steeling herself for round three of what promises to be a protracted and emotionally charged battle over present and future exploitation of these marine giants.

Hall is founding president of the West Coast Anti-Whaling Society (WAWS), an organization formed to oppose whaling, and in particular, the resumption of whaling by the Makah Indians of northern Washington state. The controversial hunt made international headlines this May when a gray whale was harpooned and killed.

That was a dark day for Hall, who encounters whales almost daily in her job as a naturalist with a Victoria whalewatching company. “We feel that nobody has the right to inflict that kind of pain and suffering on any animal needlessly,” she says. “The only purpose of this hunt is to support culture, not sustain life. In a sense, it’s politically correct whaling.”

It’s an unabashedly emotional stance for someone with academic ambitions. Hall, who did her honours thesis with Dr. Dave Duffus in UVic’s whale research lab, will soon begin an MSc and PhD at UBC on the biology of the harbour porpoise in B.C. waters. She dismisses the notion that emotion and science don’t mix. “Once you start learning about these animals you want to protect them. It’s just a natural progression.”

During the first Makah hunt last fall, and the second this spring, Hall juggled the demands of job and home life with activism—on land and water. She co-founded WAWS, organized petitions, lobbied politicians and scientists, and spoke to the news media. In between, she joined husband Chris and other protesters camped out near the Makah village of Neah Bay (about 120 km by water from Victoria), at times enduring ridicule and threats from whaling supporters.

The Makah hunt will almost certainly resume this fall and, when it does, Hall vows that she and other whaling opponents will be there to try to stop it. Her biggest fear is that the hunt will open the door for commercial whaling worldwide — a very real possibility that some people fail to grasp, she says. “We’ve been accused of being anti-Indian, which is so wrong it’s almost laughable,” she says. “We are anti-whaling, no matter who the hunters are.”

Hall is convinced that public education will ultimately win the day. Her inspiration is the whales themselves. She remembers one gray whale the protesters “sat with” off Neah Bay during one of the hunts. “The whale rolled over on its side and stared eyeball to eyeball with me,” she recalls. “At that moment in time I thought ‘there’s no way I can let them kill you.’ That’s what keeps me going.”

Familiar Footsteps

By Patty Pitts

A UVic alumni branch in the remote northern interior village of Tache, B.C.? Members of the John family could almost start one on their own.

Grand Chief Edward John of the Tl’azt’en Nation began something of a family tradition with his sociology degree in 1974. “There was no First Nations studies or office then,” he remembers. “The few native students on campus used one of Dr. Richard King’s education offices as a gathering place.”

Fast forward to the 90s. John’s daughter Shendah graduated with a bachelor of education in 1995. Following in her steps were younger brothers Damian and Martin.

“I found UVic to be welcoming and accepting,” says Damian, who completed the course requirements for his history degree last fall. Younger brother Martin is taking a break from writing studies at UVic to finish his first novel.

Although their father left Tache when he started kindergarten at a Fraser Lake residential school, and the family was raised in Prince George, they still make regular visits to the village.

Damian worked in Tache with youth recreational and employment programs and, this past summer, he returned to study his ancestral language. He was also the proud master of ceremonies at an event honoring eight Tache women who completed UVic’s aboriginal community-based diploma in child and youth care. His aunt was one of the graduates.

Damian’s encouraged with the changes he’s seen in Tache over the years—reflecting his father’s philosophy of teaching young people that “the sky’s the limit.”

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Tl’azt’en Nation Grand Chief Edward John (BA ‘74) and son Damian: “The sky’s the limit.”

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