A first for the Tribe: Whale harvested from Sunset Beach

02.29.2024 Katherine Warren Culture
Tribal members Nakoa Mercier, left, and Cristina Lara harvest a fin whale on Friday, Feb. 16. The whale washed up on Sunset Beach near Warrenton earlier this month and the Grand Ronde Tribe is the only tribe harvesting the whale. (Courtesy photo by Greg Archuleta)


By Katherine Warren

Smoke Signals staff

After a dead male fin whale washed up at Sunset Beach near Warrenton last month, Tribal Historic Preservation Manager Briece Edwards and Tribal Cultural Advisor Bobby Mercier recognized an important potential cultural opportunity.

Edwards contacted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who worked with the other agencies such as Oregon State Police, Oregon Parks and Recreation, and local agencies at Sunset Beach, to receive permission to harvest the whale. It’s a first for the Grand Ronde Tribe.

NOAA issued a harvest permit for the whale and while Edwards was coordinating that aspect, Mercier contacted Chinook Tribal Chairman Tony Johnson to ask permission to enter their traditional homelands.

“We were there within a week to harvest it and we are working with not only NOAA, but Camp Riley and Oregon Parks and Recreation, as it is still open to the public,” Mercier said.

Added Edwards, “NOAA saw this as a timely matter for harvesting this gift and we want to thank all the agencies that help make this possible. It’s nice to see this practice coming back to our Tribe.”

Grand Ronde is the only tribe harvesting the 46-foot long whale, removing a fin and lower jaw bone. They also plan to harvest the baleen and more bones. The bones will be carved to replicate work from Tribal ancestors and there will be carving classes as well. The baleen will be used for weaving small baskets and more.