For thousands of years, the Lummi Tribe have called the Washington state’s coastal lands and islands of the Salish sea home. The area was also once the home of a 52-year-old-killer whale named Tokitae. She was taken from her family by whale hunters along with six other baby orcas.
Lummi Nation and others have joined a growing call to finally bring Tokitae home to her ancestral waters, where her Orca Mother is still alive along with many of her Orca relatives. This May, the House of Tears Carvers of Lummi Nation, led by brothers Jewell and Doug James, will be traveling on a Totem Pole Journey, across the west coast and southern states to the final destination of Miami, Florida.
The carvers have been working on a Tokitae totem pole to be taken to Miami and to be used to rally communities to support Tokitae's return to her ancestral waters. Lummi, in collaboration with scientists and specialists, have been working on a rehabilitation program for Tokitae once she is returned to the Salish Sea. This program includes a sanctuary in a large, private cove on Orcas Island, where the Orca can be reacclimated to the Salish waters and rehabilitated to her homelands.
According to the U.S. Constitution, the supreme law of the land, the treaty from 1855 secures the right to fish in usual custom areas. The Lummi’s treaty rights have held up in court many times and brought them victories against the most formidable foes.
“There is no way those animals should be taken into captivity for a show, those are our brothers and sisters that were taken.” - Lummi natural resource commissioner Steve Solomon
“She needs to come home, it’s not a matter of if, it’s when.” - Freddie Xwenang Lane
For the tribe, this has become its sacred mission.
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