The Honoring of Sk’ali’Chelh-tenaut (aka Tokitae)
August 27, 2023 - Jackson Beach, San Juan Island, WA

Sk’ali’Chelh-tenaut had an ancient kinship relation with the Lummi people. As former Chairman of the Lummi Nation, Jay Julius, now President of Se’Si’Le, fought on behalf of her and his people. She was violently and viciously taken from her Salish Sea orca family in 1970 and forced to labor for profit on behalf of Miami Seaquarium for 52 years. Finally, she was allowed to rest and, with the work of the Lummi and their allies, was freed and being made ready for her return to her native waters in the Salish Sea.

The CaptureThe Capture
The CaptivityThe Captivity

Sadly, on August 18, 2023, she passed away suddenly in the hands of the handlers preparing her for her homecoming. Following her passing, and to honor her life and her clan, the Southern Resident Killer Whales, the Lummi Nation House of Tears Carvers created and helped install a commemorative totem pole at a public event on August 27, 2023 on Jackson Beach on San Juan Island. The event was the result of a cooperative effort between the Port of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, the Friends of the San Juans, the Lummi Nation, and Se’Si’Le. Here, overlooking the territorial waters of the Lummi Nation and the natal waters of her clan, her fight for the right of her freedom, and the rights of nature, will be honored with remembrance by future generations.

Jay Julius with the Sk’ali’Chelh-tenaut totem pole on San Juan IslandJay Julius with the Sk’ali’Chelh-tenaut totem pole on San Juan Island

Several weeks after this honoring, on a sad and somber day, her ashes were flown in a private jet from Georgia to Bellingham International Airport. She was given a police escort to the Lummi Reservation where her remains were placed on a Lummi Law Enforcement vessel. The vessel with her remains was honored by hundreds of Lummi people gathered on the shoreline as she passed. It was accompanied by the U.S. Coast Guard to a private location where, following deeply private ceremony, her ashes were placed into the waters of the Salish Sea and her spirit released to her home.

Se’Si’Le is, and will always be, dedicated to her memory, to the protection of her family and clan, and their homeland, the Salish Sea.

Orca Homecoming by Jason LaClair (Lummi Nation)Orca Homecoming by Jason LaClair (Lummi Nation)