Guest Post – from the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club
On May 9th, the Lummi Nation began a powerful journey from Bellingham, Washington to Miami, Florida to demand the release of the blackfish (orca whale) Tokitae from the Miami Seaquarium. Tokitae, along with many other orcas, were captured from the Salish Sea off the coast of Washington and shipped around the world to work in parks. As these young whales were lifted out of the water, their pod members below shrieked and today still avoid the area of capture. After 48 years, Tokitae is the sole survivor.
You may know her by her stage name “Lolita,” which was given to her at the Miami Seaquarium. She lives in a tiny swimming pool where she performs for audiences two times a day. Some attribute her survival to her location near the ocean, with all the sounds and smells of her true home.
The Lummi Nation seeks to return Tokitae to her ancestral waters. The House of Tears Carvers of the Lummi Nation will travel from Washington to the Miami Seaquarium with a 16-foot orca Totem Pole in tow. This 9,000 mile, 23 day journey will make stops along the way to share Tokitae’s story and to meet with local indigenous leaders and end at the Seaquarium.
This Totem Pole journey is not the first the Lummi Nation has undertaken. They have worked for generations to protect the Salish Sea from oil and gas drilling and industrial export facilities and in the last five years have traveled thousands of miles with massive custom-carved Totem Poles. With all journeys starting in Washington and traveling to areas ranging from Wyoming to Winnipeg.
This year, the journey will make about twelve stops across many western and southern states on the way to Miami, including two Texas stops in Austin (May 19th) and Houston (May 20th). These important events will tie together environmentalism, animal rights, tribal sovereignty, and will beg us to reconsider the essence of our society. The Totem Pole will be blessed and we will stand in solidarity as we send off the Lummi Nation onto their next stop.
In Texas, we struggle with the same issues that affect the Lummi and the Salish Sea. We are not in equilibrium with our natural world. Our economy is dictated by extraction, transportation, and burning of toxic chemicals for fuel and to create other dangerous materials to feed consumerism.
More specifically, Native peoples are striving to protect their sacred places in Texas. In Eagle Pass, along the border, many tribes are fighting against the Dos Republicas coal mine along with a strong coalition of local activists. In the Lower Rio Grande Valley, South Padre Island, one of the last stretches of Texas coastline untouched by the fossil fuel industry, is threatened by the construction of export facilities for fracked gas.
For countless generations, Pacific Northwest tribes, such as the Lummi Nation, have been courageous stewards of the environment. Texas and the Northwest have been culturally connected for thousands of years. Relatives stretch across these lands. Relatives also stretch beyond nationality, culture, race, and religion. Relatives stretch beyond human, animal, plant, desert, mountain, and ocean. The way we understand the order of our world has profound implications for our actions.
The people of Texas are with the Lummi Nation in their protection of ancestral lands and waters, and welcome the support and inspiration they have shown in their steadfast dedication to the natural world.
We hope that you will be able to join us at the events in Austin in Houston on May 19th and 20th, respectively.
Please note – editorials and sponsored posts are written by guest writers to inform and educate the community on a variety of different viewpoints, as well as to share information about local eco-friendly businesses and organizations. However, they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Austin EcoNetwork.