RAVEN’s friends south of the border are rallying with the Lummi Nation to free Tokitae. Read about the amazing totem journey they are undertaking and learn how you can help:
Find a Tokitae Totem Pole Journey near you:
May 10: Seattle Centilia Cultural Centre
May 11: 612 Tacoma Ave S, Tacoma
May 12: Lummi Nation + Ecotrust, Portland
The Lummi Nation is demanding the return of Tokitae—a sacred Orca whale captured from her Native waters and family at just four years old. She is one of the only Orcas who survived capture and is being held in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium. Her mother still swims the waters of the Salish Sea, and her Southern Resident Killer Whale group needs her back in these waters. The Miami Seaquarium must allow Tokitae to return home to her native habitat and family. Our journey acknowledges that the health of our native orca populations depends on the conservation and stewardship of our waters. Caring for our waters compels each of us to actively challenge the fossil fuel industry. This industry jeopardizes the future of our waters, lands, and livelihoods—so we must draw the line. As the Lummi travel the country, we will stand in solidarity with local fossil fuel fights and thus develop a collective story of resistance in honor of Tokitae.
In 1970, a number of baby blackfish were captured from resident L-pod in the Salish Sea. Blackfish have language, tools, complex social organization, emotions, memory. As the babies were lifted by helicopter out of the water, they and their families shrieked. To this day, the resident blackfish avoid Penn Cove because that’s where their children were stolen.
One of those stolen blackfish is still alive. She is now 51 years old, and has been held in a tiny swimming pool at the Miami Seaquarium for the past 47 years. She is a revenue stream for her owner, performing twice daily for the public. Her stage name is Lolita, though she is often called Tokitae by people outside the Seaquarium.
Some think that one reason Lolita/Tokitae is such a survivor is because her tank is a stone’s throw from the ocean. She can hear the waves, and smell the ripe ocean life. She remembers where she came from. Tokitae still sings the L-pod clan song. Like a person –or a community– that’s seen hard times, she has survived because she knows who she is and she has hope.
Blackfish, along with salmon, are iconic species of the Salish Sea. In the Lummi language, the word for blackfish is Qw’e lh’ol mèchen. A literal translation of this is “our relations who live underwater.” Lummi tradition acknowledges blackfish as kin. We are family. Lolita/Tokitae belongs to L-pod, she belongs to the Salish Sea, she belongs to our larger sense of family here. She belongs to herself: she has the inherent right to be home and to be free.
Repatriating Tokitae is Lummi Nation’s sacred duty.
Our effort is about more than a single blackfish, more than a single blackfish family. It’s about healing in different ways. Humans and governmental policy allowed blackfish families to be ripped apart, just as humans and governmental policy have allowed human families to be ripped apart. Until we are able to look at the truth of the past and work to repair it, we won’t be able to create a healthy future for this place and all who live here.
The Miami Seaquarium must engage in conversations with the Lummi Nation about safely transporting Tokitae home. The Lummi Nation has worked with the Orca Network to establish a plan that ensures the health and safety of the beloved Tokitae. That includes transport with her known trainers, veterinarians and necessary security offi cials. Tokitae’s transport itinerary ensures she will return to Native waters 15-16 hours after leaving the Seaquarium— well within the range of safe whale transport. Her overall health and vigor is expected to return within weeks, but she’ll be monitored by veterinarians daily and treated if needed. Learn more at bit.ly/tokitaetransport.