Tribe members were being held by the Coast Guard but had not been charged, said Mark Oswell, a spokesman for the law enforcement arm of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
A preliminary report said the whale was shot with a .50-caliber machine gun, Oswell said.
Coast Guard officials created a 1,000-yard safety zone around the injured whale, which was shot about a mile east of Neah Bay in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The whale had begun heading to sea Saturday afternoon, Oswell said.
Although the tribe has subsistence fishing rights to kill whales, Oswell said preliminary information indicates the whale may have been shot illegally.
"We allow native hunts for cultural purposes. However, this does not appear to be of that nature so far," he said.
Two things: I doubt the tribe used an actual .50 caliber machine gun to shoot the whale. If they did, I wonder what the hell a tribe of 1000 people is doing with such ordnance, other than lighting up the local cetacea. Secondly, doesn't this whole thing kind of harpoon the whole concept of Native Americans living in harmony with nature?