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Tribe hopes to hunt whales again, 20 years after last kill

The Makah Tribe conducted its last legal hunt in 1999, when its crew harpooned a gray whale from a cedar canoe.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this May 17, 1999, file photo, two Makah Indian whalers stand atop the carcass of a dead gray whale moments after helping tow it close to shore in the harbor at Neah Bay, Wash. Earlier in the day, Makah Indians hunted and killed the whale in their first successful hunt since voluntarily quitting whaling over 70 years earlier. Two decades after the Makah Indian tribe in the northwestern corner of Washington state conducted its last legal whale hunt from a hand-carved canoe, lawyers, government officials and animal rights activists will gather in a small hearing room in Seattle to determine whether the tribe will be allowed once again to harpoon gray whales as its people had done from time immemorial. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

SEATTLE — A weeklong hearing in Seattle will help determine whether a small American Indian tribe from the northwest corner of Washington state can once again hunt whales.    

The Makah Tribe conducted its last legal hunt in 1999, when its crew harpooned a gray whale from a cedar canoe.    

A U.S. appeals court later revoked permission for the hunts, saying the tribe needed to obtain a waiver under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.    

The tribe has been trying to obtain the waiver since 2005, a process that has been repeatedly stalled by scientific reviews.    

The hearing beginning Thursday will focus on whether the tribe meets the requirements for the waiver. Animal rights groups oppose the effort.    

Whatever the outcome, the matter is likely to end up in federal court.