Tokitae, otherwise known as Lolita (non-Indian name), is a member of the Southern Resident Orcas. Tokitae’s story is one of tragedy that began in 1970 and is continuing today. It’s a tragedy that may well continue until her death unless we can aide the efforts of Lummi Nation to intercede.
Tokitae was violently removed from her family in one of a series of marine raids on the Southern Resident orca population that inhabits the traditional territory of the Lummi Indians. In the raids, 45 Orca youth had been captured and scattered to marine parks across the globe. Tokitae was taken to Miami Seaquarium in Miami, Florida and is the last surviving Orca of these raids.
Lummi Nation is leading a team of experts to secure her release from the Seaquarium. It is planned, when she is finally brought home from her small concrete tank in the Seaquarium to her Southern Resident Killer Whale “L-pod” she will go through rehabilitation in a designated sanctuary in the San Juan Islands. Rehabilitation and reintroduction of other captive Orcas into their waters of origin have been successful and working with several organizations, Lummi Nation has a plan in place to bring Tokitae home and reunite her with her mother and the rest of her relatives in L-Pod.
The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians has also stepped up to lend their support to these efforts in their “Tokitae, The Southern Resident Killer Whale Population, and the Salish Sea: Our Sacred Obligation,” Resolution #19-32 passed during their 2018 midyear convention.
The need now is only to secure her release from Miami Sequarium . . . who is refusing.
Tokitae Totem Pole Journey
In the winter and spring of 2018, Master Carver Jewell Praying Wolf James and the Lummi House of Tears Carvers, carved a Totem Pole to tell the story of Tokitae and of a family who have become the iconic image of the Salish Sea. On May 9, 2018, the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship was privileged to host a blessing ceremony for the Tokitae Totem Pole and sent it on its journey, a journey that would see blessing events in cities across the country through to Miami, Florida as part of its Salish Sea Campaign. The Totem Pole is carved in the representation of a female killer whale and her two children.
The hope has been, to raise awareness of Tokitae’s story and her plight, as well as that of the remaining Southern Resident Orcas. The Journey has been about the trauma and resilience of Tokitae and about the importance of her return home to waters of the Salish Sea. It is about the critical nature of restoring, protecting and preserving the Salish Sea. It’s about Tokitae’s healing and being reunited with her mother and family for whom she still calls out nightly and whose songs she still remembers.
Tokitae represents a strengthening and healing in body and spirit for her, for all of us, and for the sacred and endangered waters of the Salish Sea. Her rescue, rehabilitation, and reunion represents, to share the Lummi language, our shared Xa xalh Xechnging (“our sacred obligation”) to honor qw’e lh’ol mèchen (“killer whale”), to rescue and rehabilitate the Salish Sea, reunite us with a healthy and vibrant Xwullmy (“Salish Sea”), and demonstrates the difference uniting diverse communities, groups and organizations can make against even the most formidable opponents.
The Story of Tokitae and the Southern Resident Orcas can be followed at “Our Sacred Sea: For A Living Salish Sea” website by Lummi Nation.
Also, to trace where the Journey has been and where it will be going next, follow it on its Facebook page “Our Shared Responsibility: A Totem Pole Journey.”
Please stay tuned,
while the Tokitae Totem Pole will be coming home in June 2019 to Lummi Nation!
Additional resources for information on bringing Tokitae home:
KNKX, By BELLAMY PAILTHORP • DEC 4, 2019 Now, a new nonprofit group is making the case that no cetaceans should be held captive and forced to perform for food. It’s called The Whale Sanctuary Project. It would be a $15 million facility where roughly a half dozen captive orcas could safely retire. The group’s extensive roster includes dozens of scientists and trainers — some who once worked in the captive industry. They want to put their first facility in the Pacific Northwest. “We’re attached to the Southern Residents. We want to do whatever we can to help them,” said the group’s founder and president Lori Marino, as she toured the Northwest this summer. Read more here.
Below is a request from Lummi Nation. As some of you may know, Lummi Nation is seeking the return of Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut (Tokitae/Lolita). For those of you who don’t know, Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut (Tokitae/Lolita) is the last remaining Orca that was brutally taken in the 1970s raids on the J, L, K pods from Penn Cove. Over 40 Orca youth were taken from our waters and dispersed to various aquarium around the world. Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut (Tokitae/Lolita) is growing older now and is near retirement from the aquarium. She has spent all but 4 years of her life (about 43 years) in a small concrete tank. She still remembers her pod’s songs. Lummi Nation has been trying to get Miami Seaquarium to release her and let her come home to spend her remaining years in the waters of her home and with her family (her mother is still alive). She will be kept in a special sanctuary and a detailed plan has been worked out to bring her home and secure her for the remainder of her life.
You can find more information here: https://sacredsea.org/skalichelhtenaut/. Take a few minutes to read and watch some of the videos, especially the link to the trailer for a documentary (https://vimeo.com/266726774).“We will be together in prayer for Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut next Thursday, October 10, at 9:30am. We are asking you all to join us from wherever you are. Please say her name, please pray in your own way, please carry her in in your heart. We want Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut to feel our love, we want to send her hope and strength. Please pray for Miami Seaquarium to do the right thing and work in a good way with us to bring her home in 2020. Hy’shqe.”Statement from Raynell Squil-le-he-le Morris and Ellie Tah-Mahs Kinley, the two Lummi tribal women intending to sue Miami Seaquarium, Palace Entertainment, and EQT, for the return of Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut. (Tokitae/Lolita). Miami Seaquarium has until October 25, 2019 (90 days from the date of the letter of intent) to respond.
Press conference at an inter-tribal gathering announcing the intention to sue Seaquarium and its parent companies to secure the repatriation of Tokitae. More Info: Kurt Russo 360 312 2292 Lummi Nation and www.sacredsea.org Until Lolita is Home is a grassroots movement that advocates for the retirement of Lolita the orca from the Miami Seaquarium. By raising awareness about Lolita (and ALL cetaceans in captivity) we hope one day Tokitae (her original name) will see her home waters again. We are an all- volunteer group with “members” located around the world. Starting in May 2015, Until Lolita is Home (formerly Shut Down Palace) hosted rallies at dozens of locations in the United States and abroad, including the Miami Seaquarium and numerous other Palace Entertainment-owned sites. Join the Until Lolita is Home Movement www.facebook.com/UntilLolitaisHome www.RetireLolita.com http://josweb.co.uk/ UntilLolitaisHome@gmail.com www.instagram.com/untillolitaishome https://twitter.com/UntilLolitaHome
The day will also include a waterside ceremony, a program including Howard Garrett and Susan Berta of Orca Network, and news from the Lummi Nation on new actions being taken for Tokitae. 49 years ago over 100 Southern Resident orcas were herded into Penn Cove off Whidbey Island, WA. Seven of the young whales were netted and delivered to marine parks around the world. All but one had died by 1987. Originally named Tokitae, they now call her Lolita. In memory of the nearly 40 Southern Resident orcas captured in Washington State, and the 13 orcas killed during the captures, and in honor of Tokitae, the sole survivor, Orca Network is sponsoring a series of events on Tuesday August 8th to commemorate the 49th anniversary of the 1970 Penn Cove Orca Capture. Please join us as we commemorate the capture of Southern Resident orcas in Penn Cove and honor Tokitae/Lolita - the only survivor of those captures. On Wednesday August 8th From 2:00 pm to 6:30 pm, we will be at the Coupeville Wharf with educational displays and information about Tokitae and the orca captures. From 3:00 to 5:00 the Suva and Cutty Sark will provide ceremonial boat trips into Penn Cove. We'll travel to the capture sites in Penn Cove for a wreath ceremony to remember the orcas killed in the captures, and those who have died in captivity. If you have your own boat or kayak you are welcome to join us in Penn Cove for a procession to the capture site. We'll provide flowers and cedar sprigs to toss into the water, or you may bring your own flower or other eco-friendly offering to toss in the water during the ceremony. Tickets for the boat trip are $75 and registration is available via the Registration button below. At 5:30 pm we will hold a program and waterside ceremony at the Coupeville Wharf including Howard Garrett and Susan Berta of Orca Network, and news from the Lummi Nation on new actions being taken for Tokitae. At 6:00 pm we will honor Toki’s Southern Resident family with a vigil of remembrance for their recent losses and of hope for their recovery. Please join us at the Coupeville Wharf, or at a beach near you, and observe a moment of silence for the Southern Residents and for Tokitae. After the Coupeville Wharf event, we invite those interested to a no-host gathering at the Captain Whidbey Inn lounge/deck. Register here.
The Lummi whale rider totem was journeyed down the west coast of the United States in May of 2018 to raise awareness about endangered southern resident killer whales – particularly one Puget Sound orca, Tokitae, who was taken captive from the Pacific Northwest in 1970 and has been at the Seaquarium in Miami ever since. Lummi has continually sought to return Tokitae (known by the Seaquarium as her performer name “Lolita”) to the Salish Sea in a Washington whale sanctuary where she could be cared for and reintroduced to swim with her family, but the Seaquarium has refused. Read more here . . .
The Lummi Tribe is hoping 2019 will be the year an orca named Tokitae is freed from captivity. Named ‘Lolita’ by Miami’s Seaquarium, the animal has lived and performed in a man-made tank since 1970. The tribe and a host of animal rights groups are putting pressure on the Seaquarium to return her to her home pod in and around Puget Sound. The push to return the orca is part of a bigger effort to bring attention to the health of the marine ecosystem that is part of the Lummi’s ancestral territory. We’ll talk with Lummi representatives and others about Tokitae and the traditional importance of orcas. Listen here. (Indian country news headlines and a few commercials start off the interview which starts at the 06:00 mark.) http://www.nativeamericacalling.com/wednesday-january-2-2019-the-push-to-free-tokitae/
A Puget Sound Orca in Captivity: The Fight To Bring Lolita Homeby Sandra Pollard. http://www.whidbeynewstimes.com/life/efforts-to-bring-orca-tokitae-home-chronicled-in-new-book/
For the last six years, the new totem poles have focused on issues relating to the fossil fuel industry. The newest carving emphasizes risks to the Salish Sea (off northwest Washington and southwest British Columbia) and its dwindling population of orcas, or killer whales, if proposed industry initiatives are not stopped. This month, the new totem of a whale will take its place in a traveling exhibition opening at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. The exhibition, titled Whale People: Protectors of the Sea, “narrates the plight of the orcas from an Indigenous perspective.” The exhibition was created by Lummi Nation and a nonprofit pop-up museum called The Natural History Museum. Read more here. https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2018/12/04/pop-up-museums-as-political-organizing-can-totem-poles-help-turn-the-tide-on-fossil-fuels/
Two brothers, Jewell and Doug James, first started carving totem poles back in 2001 after 9/11. The brothers, both members of the Lummi Nation in Washington, created these poles as gifts meant to heal. They toured them around the U.S. and invited people to put their hands on them because people are what make the poles sacred, Doug told Earther. Now, the brothers are using their carving skills to take up a different cause: threatened whales. Specifically, the 75 critically endangered orcas that call the Salish Sea along the Pacific Northwest coast home. A 3,000-pound totem pole they helped carve will sit in the Florida Museum of Natural History starting December 8 as part of the “Whale People: Protectors of the Sea” exhibit to help raise awareness of the struggle these animals face due to climate change, starvation, and the fossil fuel industry. For the Lummi, this fight is personal; they see the orcas as their relatives. Read more here.
Activist groups have lost the latest battle in a decades long fight to free an orca named Lolita from the Miami Seaquarium. The Miami Herald reports a federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected a petition to reopen a lawsuit over Seaquarium’s treatment of Lolita. The decision says that, at around 51, Lolita’s age makes the case “unique,” but there’s no threat of serious harm that could trigger a federal animal welfare law violation. The court also couldn’t identify a “realistic means” to return her to the wild without being harmed.
Just last month, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and the Miami Beach City Commission unanimously passed a resolution urging the Seaquarium to retire Lolita based on the recommendations of a long-standing retirement plan originally created in 1996 by the nonprofit Tokitae Foundation (Tokitae was given the stage name “Lolita” by the Seaquarium) which later became Orca Conservancy. It involves transferring Lolita to a seaside sanctuary in the Pacific Northwest, in her native home, teaching her to fend for herself, and eventually releasing her back into the wild.