The Orca Lead the Way, Reflections from All Our Relations: Tribute to the Orca

Photo: Save Our Wild Salmon

On the evening of June 12th, tribal members, whale activists, salmon researchers, and so many more gathered at the Seattle Aquarium for All Our Relations: Tribute to the Orca. It was the Endangered Species Coalition’s honor to be a sponsor of the commemoration and to be in the presence of so many people who bring us immense hope for the future of our Southern Residents. The energy and inspiration of the night will not soon be forgotten. 

In addition to the main program speakers and activity and education tables from organizations, artwork was a key piece of the event’s atmosphere. Part of Gabriel Newton’s Superpod collection, acrylics of the Southern Residents painted on driftwood pieces were hung on the walls. And Cyaltsa Finkbonner’s striking welded sculpture, filled with its symbolism and imagery, was center stage. They served to remind us of the power art has to make connections and tell stories. 

Superpod by Gabriel Newton (Photo: Save Our Wild Salmon)

Amid the celebration, the speakers brought our focus back to what we’re fighting for, both the good parts and the challenges. We held moments to feel both our grief and our hope. Grief for Tokitae’s passing, grief for worlds lost, grief for Tahlequah and all the orca mothers who have lost their children. Hope for healthy orcas, hope for returning salmon, hope for a free flowing Snake River. The program opened with an acknowledgment of our gathering on Duwamish lands by Duwamish Tribal Council Member Ken Workman. His words went beyond the Duwamish, thanking the many tribes of the Salish Sea for their millennia of stewardship of the lands we call home today.

With several powerful speakers in between, Alyssa Macy, CEO of Washington Conservation Action and citizen of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, closed out the evening with a critical message. She explained that when we feel grief and anger about the state of the environment, instead of leading us to despair, it must lead us to action. We cannot lose hope, because the orca are counting on us. It is our responsibility to protect them and to give them a voice. 

We want to thank Se’Si’LeWashington Conservation Action, and Save Our Wild Salmon  for hosting such a needed event to bring us all together. It highlighted the importance of uplifting and following Indigenous voices, who know the way. The Southern Residents are counting on us. You can take action today by writing to your representatives and urging them to support the removal of the Lower Snake River Dams and by talking to people in your circles about the importance of dam breaching for protecting salmon and orca populations. 

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