Dark Night Field Notes conducted a back and forth between Whale Wars’ Paul Watson and Blackfoot scholar James Michael Craven you can find here. It gets way down into the nuts and bolts of whaling and treaty rights, but what I found interesting was Paul Watson’s highly-dubious Indian vision defense. There’s also some good stuff about Watson’s more interesting associations. Neo-nazis, etc.
Watson: It is ironic and sad, yet appropriate, that I find myself leading the fight to oppose plans by the Makah Tribal Council to slaughter four Eastern Pacific gray whales in the waters of Washington state. A few weeks ago in Seattle, a sympathizer for the Makah’s whaling initiative, demanding to know why I cared so much about four whales, yelled at me “Where were you when they were shooting Indians at Wounded Knee!?” “I was there,” I answered.
Craven: When I first read this, I could smell it coming: “Me a racist? Some of my best friends are Indians…” But it goes further than that. Let’s assume he was indeed at Wounded Knee, that he did do all he claims and that he is proud of his contributions there. And did Watson, while he was supposedly at Wounded Knee, tell the Lakota that defending treaty rights, preserving sacred lands and survival of sacred culture, exactly what the Makah are fighting for, were insignificant imperatives to be summarily dismissed in favor of his pet self-professed missions if they conflicted with them?
Far from being allied with the interests of the people at Wounded Knee, Watson, in a recent interview with M.J. Milloy for Montreal’s Hour Magazine, denied his ugly, credibility-damaging real alliance with open neo-fascists and racists dedicated to exactly what the warriors of Wounded Knee were fighting against. Asked about the neo-Nazi, skinhead and racist connections of his close supporter Willis Carto and the anti-treaty rights, anti-Indian and racist record of his supporter Jack Metcalf, Watson claimed ignorance, saying: “I haven’t seen any evidence that he’s anti-Indian at all …. You have to agree to disagree on certain things and take your support where you can get it.”
Let’s deconstruct this. For the moment, let’s assume this statement is true (it isn’t) – that he only found out about his staunchest supporters during this interview. Talk about “long on arrogance and venom”; he is effectively saying that we have to “agree to disagree on certain things” which he later characterizes as “lesser issues,” presumably “lesser” than saving a few gray whales. But these lesser things his allies are for are antisemitism, Holocaust denial, racism, sexism, homophobia, fascism, the KKK, anti-minority violence, genocide, and neo-nazism. He seems to have no notion here that in “taking support where you can,” you tacitly, if not explicitly, support what your supporters support. Of course, he also has a poor notion of the Makah “taking support where they can.”
But there is a difference between the Makah and Watson in where and on what basis they draw their support. Where Watson denies and has never publicly refuted his supporters’ ugly “venom”, the Makah have never supported wholesale whaling by the whaling superpowers, who may indeed be only be supporting in hopes of a “slippery slope” leading to the restoration of wholesale whaling Watson often threatens. This is the worst kind of narcissism and arrogance: only my cause and my little market niche matter – “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” But since Watson repeatedly points to the Makah’s funding sources (never endorsed or solicited by the Makah), his own organizational connections and funding sources are fair game – especially since they demonstrate his proclivity for lying and embellishment.
But alas, Watson’s feigned surprise at the organizational affiliations and proclivities of his main supporters Metcalf and Carto – is simply and provably not true. According to the Anti-Racist Emergency Action Network, Representative Jack Metcalf is well-known throughout Washington State as the second most influential long-time anti-Indian and anti-tribal activist. Metcalf is one of the founders of S/SPAWN which later became the United Property Owners of Washington and is linked to the Washington Property Rights Network and the Wise Use Movement, who “are further organizationally and actively connected with the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance, a national anti-treaty rights organization. Activists recorded Metcalf opposing South Africa’s apartheid regime in the Washington State Legislature in Olympia making “staggeringly racist comments about Africans being genetically incapable of governing themselves… in open committee meetings.”
Further, Watson portrays his anti-whaling as an integral part of an overall environmentalism; yet the Sierra Club ranks Metcalf among the lowest in environmental legislation. He voted against bills for logging restrictions and clean air and water (presumably Watson doesn’t care if the whales die of water pollution), and for bills weakening the Environmental Protection Agency. In the very interview in which he feigned ignorance of Metcalf’s anti-Indian racism, Watson was confronted with the connections between Carto and Metcalf, and said he was not surprised: “Metcalf is floating on the edge of the extreme patriot right.” Watson can’t keep track of his lies. What exactly does he think the “extreme patriot right” is about if not racism, especially against Indians?
Both Watson and Metcalf have been featured and praised in Willis Carto’s publication “The Spotlight.” Anyone who wants to find out what Carto is need only type any of these terms into any search engine: Willis Carto, The Institute for Historical Review, the Liberty Lobby, Aryan Nations, Holocaust denial, neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, KKK. Or you can consult the Simon Wiesenthal Center which has an extensive file on Carto as America’s leading antisemite and Holocaust denier. This begs the question: What possible support could Metcalf and Carto give the “just cause” of saving whales that could ever justify support from and for open fascists, antisemites, and racists of their ilk?
It should be very clear who is long on arrogance, venom and very unrighteous indignation and short on truth and facts. It is not the Makah – it is this very selective “environmentalist” and savior of the whales. It should be noted that these forces allied with Metcalf and Carto are also avid gun nuts who love to kill and mount all sorts of animals; Watson’s concern for life and the environment apparently stops at that which doesn’t feed his trough directly.
Watson simply and summarily arrogates to himself the right to define and declare what cultures and practices are worth preserving, what treaties are worth respecting and defending, what Faustian bargains with the forces of evil are defensible and yes, even what forms of life are worth any sacrifice to protect. Apparently Indians are not on Watson’s “close-to-extinction” list.
Watson: I received my life’s mission to protect the great whales while serving as a medic for the American Indian Movement (AIM) at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1973. I was holding the other end of the stretcher when a US Marshall’s bullet struck down medic Rocky Madrid as we were running through a hail of lead. I assisted Leonard Crow Dog in removing the bullet. I was made a warrior brother to the Oglala Lakota Nation and was given the name Gray Wolf Clearwater. In the sweat lodge ceremony, I had a vision, a dream wherein an arrow struck a buffalo. The arrow had a long string attached to it. The buffalo asked for my help and I broke the string and chased the hunter away. Wallace Black Elk interpreted my dream. “Your mission is to help the buffalo of the sea – the whales,” he said. “It will not be easy.”
Two years later, in a high-speed zodiac, Bob Hunter and I became the first people to place our bodies between a whale and a harpoon. We were confronting the Russian whaling fleet sixty miles off the coast of Northern California in the first Greenpeace whale campaign. Never did I dream that more than twenty years later I would be returning home to defend the whales once again in American waters, this time from Americans.
Craven: By his account, it would appear that Paul Watson played a major role (enough to be “named”) in a major action. Why then does Peter Matthiessen’s In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, the definitive account of Wounded Knee and the FBI’s war on the American Indian Movement, never mention Watson or this incident? Why would this Wounded Knee “hero” be opposed by real Wounded Knee veterans in demonstrations against Watson and his organization? What prompted him to go to Wounded Knee, if he did, in the first place? Did he have another vision of his destiny to become a “white savior” for the poor ignorant Indians under siege?
At Wounded Knee, there were central players, critical support players, peripheral support players, peripherals and wannabes. It is quite easy and understandable these days to find people who were “at” Wounded Knee sometime, perhaps not even the relevant and dangerous times, who now find themselves undergoing “The older I get, the better I used to be” syndrome. But Watson’s past documented misrepresentations and name-dropping are typically far more calculating and opportunistic. For example, Watson has also claimed to have been a central figure supporting AIM and Leonard Peltier. Yet according to Arthur J. Miller, deeply involved in the Leonard Peltier case for the past 19 years, coordinator of the Northwest Leonard Peltier Support Network (NWLPSN) and someone who worked in the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee Office back in the 1980s, he has never seen one reference to Watson or one thing connecting Watson with Leonard Peltier. In fact, AIM Wounded Knee veterans (the real ones) and NWLPSN picketed his big show meeting in Seattle.
There was a Clearwater at Wounded Knee – a Cherokee named Frank Clearwater who was killed by a stray bullet and later slandered by the FBI as being “a white man, dishonorably discharged from the Army, who later fraudulently re-enlisted.” Of course, Leonard Crow Dog was at Wounded Knee (who once denounced the martyred Anna Mae Aquash as a police spy) and of course Wallace Black Elk as there. But there is no record of the heroic contributions of Paul Watson or this special white savior “named” Gray Wolf Clearwater. And named by whom? When has Watson ever publicly used or signed this name Gray Wolf Clearwater prior to his recent article denouncing the Makah?
But far more disturbing than any apparent embellishment or even outright lies about past heroics at Wounded Knee is his cynical use of the memories and sacrifices of Wounded Knee to promote exactly the opposite of, and thus desecrate, what Wounded Knee was all about. Wounded Knee was about defending Sovereignty against overwhelming odds and against lies and vilification. Wounded Knee was about defending sacred land, sacred ways and sacred birthrights. Wounded Knee was about defending and trying to preserve what is left of the Lakota People against genocidal onslaught. Wounded Knee was about defending the Lakota nation against the very kinds of racist, fascist and anti-Treaty forces whom Watson allies himself with without the slightest shame. Wounded Knee was about preserving and teaching traditional ways to the young so that they could grow up to preserve and protect the Lakota nation. Wounded Knee was about defending and instilling Indian pride and commitment to counter the ugly effects of drugs, alcohol and the intrigues and divide-and-rule machinations of the non-Indian – and sell-out Indian – forces and interests.
Wounded Knee was about exactly what the Makah intend with the whale hunt. Wounded Knee, like the Makah whale hunt, was about defending treaty rights, defending what land is left and defending sovereignty paid for with blood and sacrifice. Of the over 800 US treaties and over 400 ratified treaties between the US Government and the Indian Nations, every single ratified treaty has been broken and/or seriously abridged by the US government while being respected by the Indians who signed them. This is despite the imperative of Article VI, Section 2 of the US Constitution which reads that Treaties are: “the supreme law of the land, and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”7 History has taught us very clearly that treaties not continually used and defended are lost forever – and with them, the nations who failed to exercise and defend their treaty rights. Further, any anti-whaling treaty the US government signs cannot speak for, bind or contravene another treaty signed with the Makah without the consent and participation of the Makah as this would render treatymaking meaningless, violate the Common Law of Nations and violate Makah sovereignty. The US government doesn’t make treaties with American citizens and further, Indians weren’t even recognized as American citizens until 1924, when they were summarily declared US citizens without the participation or acceptance of the Indians themselves.
The 1855 Treaty between the Makah and the US Government is a clear unconditional promise to secure to the Makah the right to engage in whaling. It has been upheld by US federal courts and the US Supreme Court and it is inviolable only as long as it is defended. Further, it is all the more important for the Makah to defend this Treaty, after voluntarily agreeing to suspend whaling for over 70 years while gray whales were endangered, because they are dealing with the US government. This is a government that was one of the handful of nations refusing to sign the UN Convention on Genocide for over 40 years, the same government that in common with only a handful of other nations tried to block and refused to endorse the formation of a World Court to deal with Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity.
Interestingly, what Watson calls the “extreme patriot right,” his supporters, are really into “sovereignty” when it comes to demanding that the US not sign any treaties on genocide that violate US “sovereignty.” So according to their arguments, if genocide is an “American Thing,” then the US is immune from any international conventions, treaties, laws or sanctions. Yet they are the first to scream about violations of international “human rights” law and call for unilateral sanctions against Cuba, China and other countries, without recourse to any international law or courts. They even call themselves “sovereigntists”; but when it comes to Indian treaties or any treaties they don’t like, then treaties mean nothing. The Makah, like other Indian nations, are far closer to total extinction than the gray whales. People close to extinction do not need the permission or acceptance of Watson, Carto, Metcalf or anyone. This is like asking a Jew to accept the “assurances” of the Nazis.
Watson makes reference to his involvement in the first Greenpeace action against whaling but makes no mention of why he’s no longer in Greenpeace or, if he’s so determined to stop whaling, why he isn’t supporting Greenpeace’s efforts. The reason: in Greenpeace, he could no longer be a big frog in a small pond. According to the Greenpeace activists who knew and worked with him, he left or was expelled (there are differing versions) because “Captain” Watson’s megalomania, narcissism, reckless disregard for others, showboating and instability compromised their organizational goals, credibility and missions.