Bringing Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut to her Xwlemi Tokw
An overview of the Operational Plan
It is our Xa xalh Xechnging (sacred obligation) to bring our relation, the orca known as Tokitae or Lolita but whom we know as Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut, out of captivity at the Miami Seaquarium and back home to the Salish Sea. We are extending an open hand to the Miami Seaquarium and its parent companies in an invitation to work with us. Together we can right the wrong of Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut’s capture, and safely and responsibly bring her home to the Salish Sea.
Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut is family to us, and as such, we must care for her as we do our own. We have worked closely with the Whale Sanctuary Project to create a plan that sees to Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut’s emotional, cultural, and spiritual needs as well as her physical needs. Ceremony will be wed to science in our care for her.
The Whale Sanctuary Project’s experienced field team collaborated with marine mammal veterinarians, scientists, field researchers, and other experts in drafting the Operational Plan.
Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut’s Xwlemi Tokw (Lummi Home)
Right now, Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut lives in a concrete tank that is barely bigger than she is. She cannot dive and swim freely; she cannot escape the relentless Florida sun or hurricane dangers. The chlorinated water in which she swims is devoid of all life. Killer whales see with sound, as well as with vision. Her acoustic isolation is an extreme cruelty, akin to solitary confinement in a prison cell far from home.
By contrast, the Xwlemi Tokw that has been designed and would be custom-built for her is a large netted structure within a secure and protected area in her natal Salish Sea waters. She will have ample space to swim and dive; the waters will be full of natural life. She will breathe the air of the Salish Sea, she will hear the birds, keep company with the fish, swim over kelp beds, feel the pull of the tides and currents. We believe that water is alive, and has memory. Her home waters will embrace her.
The Xwlemi Tokw will give access to spiritual practitioners, scientists, and veterinarians who will continue to assess and fulfill her changing needs. The Operational Plan details every aspect of the Xwlemi Tokw, including maintenance systems, long-term environmental assessment protocols, and on-site risk management.
Getting her home
In addition to detailing the Xwlemi Tokw, the Operational Plan includes:
- A comprehensive evaluation of her physical and behavioral condition at the Miami Seaquarium by qualified experts.
- A closely monitored conditioning plan prior to transport.
- A detailed transport plan addressing each leg of the transport from Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut’s tank at the Miami Seaquarium to the Xwlemi Tokw.
- Protocols for Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut’s on-site care once she has arrived at the Xwlemi Tokw. These protocols address her initial introduction to the habitat and the transitional phase of her acclimatization, as well as her long-term ongoing care including care considerations, medical care, ongoing monitoring, daily marine operations and security of the Xwlemi Tokw.
- Emergency and risk management plans for each component of the plan.
- A comprehensive review of potential ecological risks and mitigation strategies.
Each component of the operational plan includes a detailed review of necessary equipment and personnel, including security, required for safe and responsible implementation.
The most challenging aspect of bringing Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut home remains securing her release from Miami Seaquarium. We are hopeful that the Dolphin Company —soon to be operating the Seaquarium— will understand the moral, cultural, and spiritual imperatives to bring her home.
Animated Graphic: Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut’s Xwlemi Tokw (her Lummi home)
Protect and Revitalize the Salish Sea
Your tax-deductible donations to the Tokitae Fund of Lummi Nation's Lhaqtemish Foundation directly supports the Salish Sea Campaign and the work to bring Sk'aliCh'elh-tenaut (Tokitae/Lolita) home. Hy’shqe!