We, the undersigned, in representing ourselves, our memberships, and/or our constituencies, support the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) effort to bring Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut home and, further, call upon the Governors of Washington, Oregon, and California, and the Premier of British Columbia, the lands of which border the marine territory of the Southern Resident Orcas, to jointly sign a Proclamation that would acknowledge that:
• The Southern Resident Orcas of Xw'ullemy (the Salish Sea bioregion) are a unique and iconic population, holding significant spiritual and cultural value for people in this region and throughout the world.
• The Lhaq’temish people of Lummi Nation, like many Coast Salish peoples, have lived in reciprocal relationship with the orcas since time immemorial. The Lummi term for orca is “qwe’lhol’mechen,” which means, “people under the water.” Western science is now aligned with traditional Indigenous knowledge that orcas are indeed much like people, in possessing tremendous intelligence, language, complex societies, culture, and capacity for love.
• Ancestral teachings hold that the Southern Resident Orcas and the Lhaq’temish people are family. In order to reaffirm these kinship bonds, the Lummi held a traditional naming ceremony for the Southern Resident Orcas, bestowing upon them the family name “Sk’aliCh’elh."
• The life of each and every member of Sk’aliCh’elh is extremely precious, as this critically endangered population is down to 75 orcas.
• In August of 1970, Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut, whose name means “daughter of Sk’aliCh’elh,” was one of over 50 young orcas violently stolen from the Salish Sea and sold to aquariums. She is the last remaining Southern Resident Orcas to be held in captivity.
• For over 50 years, Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut (also called “Tokitae” and “Lolita” in captivity) has been held at Miami Seaquarium in the world’s smallest orca tank, subjected to cruel and unnatural conditions, including relentless sun and heat, extreme social isolation, and exposure to dangerous hurricanes.
• It is the Xa xalh Xechnging (sacred obligation) of Elders and others within the Lummi Nation to bring Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut home. A Lummi Nation Motion to bring Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut home was passed in 2017.
• Building upon the Lummi Nation Motion, in 2018 the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians passed Resolution #18-32, calling on Governor Inslee and Washington State legislators to support her return and actively work with representatives from Lummi Nation to secure any state permits that might be required. https://bit.ly/3cIM1eI
• The international legal norm established by the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples reaffirms the inherent right of the Lummi People and the sovereign Nation to conserve, protect, and steward their current and traditional territory, including the Salish Sea, its ecosystems, and species.
• A Statement of Solidarity for Sk'aliCh'elh-tenaut has been signed by Indigenous leaders worldwide, and continues to gather signatories. https://bit.ly/3uo8DH9
• The current effort builds on decades of prior lawsuits and campaigns to return Sk'aliCh'elh-tenaut home. Over 600,000 people have signed petitions calling for her release. Since 2017, Lummi ceremonies, actions, and totem pole journeys have further garnered international attention and support. https://bit.ly/3sXgSd2
• Leading experts, under the guidance of Lummi cultural advisors, have developed a comprehensive plan to safely and responsibly bring Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut home to the Salish Sea, where she will receive ongoing care by a dedicated team of veterinarians, scientists, and Lummi spiritual/cultural advisors.
We further urge the Governors and Premier of our Southern Resident Orca territories to:
• Support and endorse the efforts being coordinated by representatives of the Lummi Nation to return Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut to her Salish Sea home.
• Call upon Miami Seaquarium, Festival Fun Parks (DBA Palace Entertainment), Parques Reunidos and EQT to agree to negotiate the terms and conditions for Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut’s release from Miami Seaquarium and safe return to her natal waters; and
• Work with representatives of the Lummi Nation and other relevant entities to secure any state permits that might be required for the return and rehabilitation of Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut and her reunion with her human and Orca family.