News Release

Sacred Sea

On August 8, 2021, the 51st anniversary of the forcible taking of Salish Sea orca relations from Penn Cove, Washington, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians President Leonard Forsman, Tsleil-Waututh Nation Councillor Charlene Aleck, and other guests joined Lummi matriarchs at the “Netse Mot for Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut” virtual event and called for the return of the last surviving stolen orca.

The orca known as Tokitae or Lolita, and whose Lummi name is Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut, has been held in a tiny concrete tank at Miami Seaquarium for the past 51 years.

The Netse Mot (one heart, one mind) event also launched the Statement of Solidarity for Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut, as signed by a growing number of international Indigenous leaders. Councillor Aleck read and presented the Statement, and added, “As an Indigenous woman, my lineage does not end at my skin, my lineage does not end at my fingertips and toes, my lineage goes into the salt water of the whole Salish Sea. As Indigenous people, we don’t see a border that separates us from the lands and waters.”

Pictured: Lummi matriarchs Tah-Mahs (Ellie Kinley) and Squil-le-he-le (Raynell Morris) at an ancestral village site on the Salish Sea.

Pictured: Lummi matriarchs Tah-Mahs (Ellie Kinley) and Squil-le-he-le (Raynell Morris) at an ancestral village site on the Salish Sea.

President Forsman said that bringing Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut back “to these sacred waters will be part of a healing process, not only healing the harm of the past practice of harvesting and detaining these great creatures but also healing our own communities, where our people were taken away and forced to attend boarding schools. We’re still recovering from that trauma, and we see this as a part of the healing process as we reestablish our traditional relationship to our waters.”

August 9, 2021 was International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Squil-le-he-le (Raynell Morris), one of the matriarchs spearheading the campaign said, “Our work to bring Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut home is about making families whole again. That’s what Indigenous peoples around the world are doing. We want you to understand that our family includes salmon and killer whales. Our waters and lands are our family, the Earth is our Mother.”

Indigenous leaders are urged to contact to have their names added to the Indigenous Statement of Solidarity.

Read the Indigenous Statement of Solidarity

Netse Mot for Sk'aliCh'elh-tenaut event

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