Say My Name

Artist: Abby Castle Brockway

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I chose Tokitae the Orca that was taken from Penn Cove in the Salish Sea in 1970. She was one of 45 killer whales taken out of the Puget Sound. Tokitae (a Coast Salish greeting meaning ‘nice day, pretty colors’) was sold to Miami’s Seaquarium for $6000.00. She was renamed by the entertainment facility giving her the stage name “Lolita”. In the Lummi language, the word for killer whale is Que’lhol mechen which means “our relations below the waves” The Lummi people gave Tokitae a Lummi name as they continue the campaign to bring their relative home. They call her Sk’aliCh’elh-tenau. She was taken from her home and family L-Pod and put into a tank full of chlorinated water. Her tank measures 48’ wide and 20’ deep. Lolita is 22’ long. Lolita is with no companions and killer whales are very social beings. She is required to perform tricks 2-3 times a day. Tokitae has been in captivity as long as I have been alive.

I chose to tell about this modern-day crucifixion because the Orca population is dying in Puget Sound. Almost 100 Orcas were killed or captured and sold by white people like me in the 1960’s and 70’s. I have connected with native activists who have told me about Lolita and the actions taken to return the whales to their homes. They have been successful. Lolita is the last living Orca in captivity. I believe art can help expand the storytelling and inspire people to get involved. As a white person of privilege, I feel compelled to encourage people like me to become allies and support the work of the Lummi people and those already committed to this campaign.

My quilt-square is fairly literal. The story is told in two halves top being the capture and the bottom being the modern-day depiction. The words sewn in the middle remind me of dollar bills which is the transaction that caused the transgression. I wanted to show the whiteness of the people dominating these creatures. That meant I needed a darker background in which to clearly show the people.
I used the words I found in telling the story, creating a background.

I am most happy with the colors. The upper scene is in traditional Native Northwest Coast colors. The colors of the lower section reminded me of a Florida color palette. I used the font of the Miami Seaquarium to spell the word Miami but changed the color of the logo to keep with the Miami Dolphins Football color theme. I struggled where to embed my cross in the design but again took the literal choice and made it part of actual connection of the crucifixion.

Visit Sacredsea.org or email tokitae@salishsea.org