Structured systems of indigenous governments include systems of commerce and exchange, different concepts of
wealth and very different nutritional habits which have been developed on the strength and in accord with generations of
observing the natural systems which we live in and ultimately sustain us. Indigenous social structures occur within ecological
structures. It can be described as a "science of relations". This indigenous science has developed over millennia and is an
acute awareness of the necessity to include social, cultural, spiritual and economic growth within the natural limits of nature.
When we talk about indigenous social, cultural and economic practices we are in fact talking about responsibilities that have
evolved into unwritten tribal laws over millennia. These responsibilities and laws are directly tied to nature and is a product
of the slow integration of cultures within their environment and the ecosystems. Thus, the environment is not a place of
divisions but rather a place of relations, a place where cultural diversity and bio-diversity are not separate but in fact need
each other. This is cultural bio-diversity; a practice which has been developed and nurtured over millennia; in the Nuuchah-
nulth language “Hishuk Tsawalk”, everything is one, everything is connected.
When the term subsistence is used it is always viewed in its minimal form; survival. This invokes deeply rooted colonial
stereotypes of indigenous peoples as a people perpetually on the edge of starvation, living hand to mouth without
responsibilities. But as our ancestors tell us, ours was and is a world of abundance with many responsibilities.
In the context of the colonial world these responsibilities have become rights insofar as we are expected to defend them, but
at their root, for indigenous whaling peoples, they are responsibilities first and foremost. When we speak of "subsistence
whaling", we are not referring to whaling done out of desperation, or a practice which demands the parties involved be
dressed in the fashion of their ancestors 500 years ago. Indeed, subsistence hardly seems the word. It is a category imposed
on traditional whaling peoples by a section of society whose view of nature has been clouded.
The ecological relationships which unite whales and whalers continue: orcas hunt whales, some whales eat fish; fish eat krill,
some whales eat krill; so what is missing? What has been consciously suppressed out of concern for the whale stocks? It is
the ability of the people to once again be a part of the web of life. The stocks are healthy once again, and it is time to reinstate
the human relationships and become part of the ecosystems which sustain us. This is the root of subsistence
Happynook, T.M. The Social, Cultural and Economic Importance of “Subsistence” Whaling. In: Microbehavior and Macroresults:Proceedings of the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Institute ofFisheries Economics and Trade, July 10-14, 2000, Corvallis, Oregon, USA.Compiled by Richard S. Johnston and Ann L. Shriver. InternationalInstitute of Fisheries Economics and Trade (IIFET), Corvallis, 2001.