The Whale Museum has a long history of naming orca calves of the Southern Resident Community, then entering them in the “orca Adoption Program,” which is a symbolic adoption.
This year, several Whale Museum staff members had the rare opportunity to participate in a Samish Indian Nation traditional potlatch naming ceremony for J-49, the newest J Pod calf. Education Curator Cindy Hansen was asked to stand as “witness” to the ceremony.
Being a witness requires one to witness what was seen and heard at the ceremony and remember it. Witnesses also have the duty to pass on to others what they observed as well as the story of the whale named.
Blankets played a significant role in the ceremony. Each witness had a blanket placed over one shoulder, and four blankets were ceremoniously placed on the floor. A young person was appointed to carry the image of J-49, the orca calf to be named. He then walked to the center of the blankets where words were spoken in the Samish language. The young man moved off the blankets with the image and slowly moved about he gathering “introducing” this young killer whale to all in attendance. Proceeding behind him were reverent singers and drummers. When the ceremony ended, the framed image and blankets were given as gifts to honor others in attendance.
J-49’s name was announced: T ílem Ínges (pronounced “teelem eenges”), which means “singing grandchild.”
This was the fourth traditional potlatch naming ceremony, a tradition which started with T ílem Ínges’ mother, Hy’Shqa (J-37) in 2001. Hy’Shqa means “thank you” or “blessing” in Coast Salish. The ceremony was special to both The Whale Museum and the Samish Nation as it symbolized the continuation of the tradion of naming the whale calves of this orca matriline.
T ílem Ínges (J-49) is now entered into the Orca Adoption Program where he can be symbolically adopted. Adopting this young calf or another whale in the Southern Resident community supports the mission of The Whale Museum, which promotes stewardship of whales and the Salish Sea eco-system through education and research.
For more information on the Orca Adoption Program , contact The Whale Museum, 360.378-4710.
To learn more about The Whale Museum’s current open ballot for naming L-119, see our blog post.