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Sightings
On a Pacific Odyssey from Mexico to Alaska in pursuit of the mysterious gray whale, Linda Hogan and Brenda Peterson create a vivid and varied tapestry of poignant stories and plainspoken science. Their two voices, that of an award-winning Native American writer and an acclaimed novelist, essayist, and naturalist, interweave the diverse strands of legend and lore, science and symbolism, wonder and controversy inspired by the gray whales, which migrate 10,000 miles each year and have twice been hunted to the brink of extinction. The authors also address the three-way collision between the whales and their countless champions, the curtailed but still destructive whaling industry, and the tribal whaling rights of Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest who have resumed their traditional hunt. Sightings is a lyrical celebration of our eternally elusive yet irresistible kinship with the strange and surprising gray whale.

 


Praise for Sightings
"This book is not the standard National Geographic fare . . . Sightings is beautiful reading. Each of the short chapters is rich as a poem, and indeed, many read like song or poetry, each woman's distinctive voice blending and harmonizing with her co-author's."
—Sy Montgomery, author Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness

"Brenda Peterson is amazing, a soulful and profound observer of nature -- from whales to humans -- in all their glory and distress."
—Diane Ackerman, author The Zookeeper’s Daughter
 

“Brenda Peterson, one of the most eloquent nature writers of our time, shares her numerous experiences with our animal kin and shows us how deeply spiritual and soulful they are, and also how to love them for who they are.”

—Marc Bekoff, author The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explains Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy—and Why They Matter


LISTEN TO AN INTERVIEW with Brenda on
NPR's "TO THE BEST OF OUR KNOWLEDGE"

WATCH VIDEO OF GRAY WHALE BIRTHING LAGOONS:
Here are some video out-takes from our 2002 Gray whale research trip to San Ignacio Lagoon, a gray whale nursery in Baja, Mexico where people joyfully encounter what scientists call the Friendly Whale Syndrome. In the first few frames, you'll see our guide, Summer Tree Institute's Doug Thompson, author of TOUCHING THE MYSTERY, his splendid book on studying whales in Baja since the 1970s. And there I am with my parents, lifting our hands in delight after they've just touched a baby gray for the first time.
All photos from our visits to Baja's St. Ignacio Lagoon, a Gray Whale nursery with SummerTree Institute
photo credits: Robin Kobaly

BABY GRAY WHALE CALF, BAJA 
SIGHTINGS CO-AUTHOR, BRENDA PETERSON AND JAPANESE FRIENDS, YOSHIKO AND MASUMI, ENCOUNTER A GRAY WHALE CALF 
READ Brenda's JAPAN FOCUS ARTICLE, "THE WHALE AND THE CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL
BRENDA IN BAJA, 2005
BRENDA PETERSON AND CHICKASAW AUTHOR, LINDA HOGAN, COVERED THE MAKAH WHALE HUNT FOR THE SEATTLE TIMES AND THE SEATLE P-I IN A SERIES OF ARTICLES. THE MAKAH ARE AGAIN LOBBYING IN 2015 TO HUNT GRAY WHALES. HERE ARE SEVERAL LINKS FOR BACK STORY ON MAKAH WHALING.

ELDERS CALL FOR A SPIRITUAL DIALOGUE ON MAKAH TRIBE'S WHALING PROPOSAL"


MAKAH ELDER, ALBERTA THOMPSON, WAS A PASSIONATE ADVOCATE FOR THE GRAY WHALE AND VISITED BAJA BIRTHING LAGOONS. WE PROFILED HER IN SIGHTINGS AND I ALSO WROTE ABOUT "BINKI" AS SHE WAS CALLED BY HER FRIENDS, IN SINGING TO THE SOUND. BINKI DIED IN 2012 AT 88 AND WE GREATLY MISS HER LEADERSHIP AND COMPASSION, ESPECIALLY AS THE MAKAH WORK TO AGAIN HUNT THE GRAY WHALE RESIDENTS OF NEAH BAY WHO SHARE THEIR WATERS.
EXCERPT FROM "MAKAH ELDER: KEEPER OF THE WHALES" FROM MY FOLLOW-UP TO THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BOOK, SINGING TO THE SOUND BY NEWSAGE PRESS

 

While at first glance, Alberta Thompson was a genial grandmother, she was also formidable and stalwart, Her jet black hair was illumined by one startling silver streak running back from her widow's peak like a lightning bolt. Her somber tone and dignified presence said she was very mindful of what she was about to do. She meant to dispel the media's simplistic portrait of a battle brewing between conservationist conservationists and whale-hunting Indians on the high seas. She wanted to talk about her tribe’s deep divisiveness on the issue of returning to a Makah whale hunt

"Most of the elders are against this hunt," Alberta began, sitting in a rocking chair. Her modest trailer was decorated with Makah carvings, hand-knit afghans, and walls crowded with photos of what Alberta calls her “United Nations of a family,” all colors and all devoted to her. Family and friends call her "Binki" and by the stream of visitors, grandsons, and grown children, it was obvious that Alberta is much beloved.

"I am speaking for the silent majority of Makah and the elders because they are afraid,” Alberta began. “Some of the elders are so old they cannot stand up for hours at tribal meetings. Because they're against the hunt, the young men on the Tribal Council will not even give these old ones a chair to sit down." Alberta's vibrant voice trembled. "They are our elders, but the Tribal Council is not listening to them. The Tribal Council tells them that opposing the hunt will threaten our treaty rights." Alberta said firmly, "That is not true at all! Our treaty rights will stand, whether or not we go whaling."

Seven Makah elders, including the oldest living Makah, had signed a petition against the hunt, which Alberta and another Makah grandmother Dotti Chamblin, presented at the International Whaling Comissions's (IWC) yearly meeting in June 1996 in Aberdeen, Scotland. Alberta grinned, "The Tribal Council told the IWC that I was 'dangerous.' I arrived in a wheel chair. What would make me, an old woman, so dangerous?”

Albert Thompson leaned forward in her rocking chair and her wide, generous face was set in a stoic expression. The Makah no longer needed the gray whale to subsist, she said. "It is a different time. It is a different ocean, and a different whale. If the Makah go whaling," she predicted, "then some of us Makah will be out on the boats to try to protect the whales from slaughter."

Alberta concluded our conversation with this question. "I asked Ben Johnson, the chairman of the Makah Whaling Commission, 'Who is going to be responsible for the first deaths? Because there will be deaths.'"

Two years later during the spring, 1999 Makah whale hunt, Alberta Thompson was indeed there on the marina dock, in the media, among the protesters to protect the gray whales from her tribe's hunters. She would suffer much for her beliefs and most often in the media glare, she would stand alone, still representing the other elders who were silenced by the Tribal Council.

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