Saturday, June 29, 2013


Among the Southern Resident Killer Whales, there is a matriline that has become adopted by the Samish Indian Nation. This matriline is in J-pod and the newest member has been named today. J-49 has been named T’ílem Ínges (pronounced “tēēlem ēēnges”), which means "singing grandchild" in the Samish language.

This naming ceremony was part of a potlatch--which is basically a gift-giving festival practiced in the Pacific Northwest and Canadian coastal tribes. There is a long history of potlatches (and the subsequent banning by both the Canadian and American governments) among the  native peoples of this area. 

As the nicknames of the whales are given out by the Whale Museum, Whale Museum staff was invited to this ceremony--and I was lucky enough to be granted an invitation!

Before the potlatch there was a canoe blessing ceremony--the canoes were given names and were then paddled around by members of the tribe.

After the canoe ceremony, there was a big potluck (also part of the potlatch) and then the naming ceremony began. Despite being reassured that it was okay to take pictures, I only took a few (and none of them were too good).

The naming ceremony itself incited many emotions in me. For one, it was a fascinating look into the blossoming culture of the Samish. Though I fully admit, I did not do much research before the ceremony, throughout the entire event, it was mentioned how the Samish lost most of their culture and were slowly regaining it. It was really touching when the elders leading the ceremony mentioned that they hoped that their young ones would grow with T’ílem Ínges and bring new meaning and life into the Samish Nation. At times it did seem to drag on, and there definitely could have been more projecting of voices (sometimes it was a little hard to hear the speakers!), but all in all, it was a truly enjoyable and memorable expereience. 

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