Lummi Nation calls for release of Tokitae from Miami Seaquarium

Submitted by the Orca Network

Representatives from the Lummi Nation will join Florida gubernatorial candidate and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and other leaders to advocate for the release of the killer whale Tokitae (“Lolita”) from the Miami Seaquarium, following 48 years of confinement. A proposed transport plan by Orca Network would include moving Tokitae into an open pen off the shore of Glenwood Springs Fish Hatchery.

The Lummi Indians are a self-governing Nation whose aboriginal territory includes an area in the San Juan Islands that will provide a sanctuary for Tokitae.

In a Jan. 17 letter to Andrew Hertz, President and General Manager of the Seaquarium, the Lummi Indians requested a meeting to discuss her repatriation. The letter notes that the tribe’s team of experts have carefully reviewed her situation and are both concerned for her health and safety at Seaquarium and are confident she can be safely returned, rehabilitated, and reunited with her pod. The letter notes that a suitable sanctuary in the San Juan Islands has been identified and a comprehensive plan is in place for her transport and rehabilitation.

“She was ruthlessly taken from her family that lives in our traditional territory,” said Jewell James of the Lummi Nation. “She is not an “ambassador.” She is a captive and must be reunited with her family. “It is our xa xalh xechnging [sacred obligation] to do this.”

The killer whale, qw’e lh’ol’ mè chen in the Lummi language, is one of the Lummi’s eldest relations. The tribe has many songs, oral histories, and ancestral teachings about their spiritual connection, and their sacred obligation, to qw’e lh’ol’ mè chen.

The press conference will include the preview of a trailer developed in advance of a full-length documentary that will tell the story of Tokitae and her spiritual connection to the tribe.

The Lummi Nation will also unveil plans for their 9,000-mile, 30-day tour in 2018 of major cities, including Miami, to bring national and international attention to Tokitae.

Levine and the Lummi leaders join a growing chorus of voices across the US that include elected officials, tribal leaders, marine biologists, whale sanctuary managers, the faith-based community and nongovernmental organizations, who are demanding her release and her reunion with her pod in the San Juan Islands of Washington State.