Orca and Human Families
June is Orca Month. It is a time to celebrate these magnificent animals. But I’ve had a hard time celebrating anything this week, since I learned that the Trump administration has separated some 2,000 immigrant children from their parents.
I want to write about orca L92 (or Crewser), who was reported dead on Monday. He was a 23 year-old adult male, in his prime, and he most likely died of starvation. I want to remember him. I want to remind us all that we need to do everything we can to get these whales more salmon. Or we will lose them—forever. Without L92, there are only 75 Southern Resident orcas left. His family needs our support right now, more than ever.
But I struggle to write more than a few sentences about whales when small children sit in Office of Refugee Resettlement encampments and their parents are shipped away. I’m a mom of three small kids. My mind cannot stop imagining the terror of forced separation. How will these parents locked in a detention facility find their kids again? Who will help them?
As I sat down today to try, once again, to write about the loss of L92, I thought about the story of the Southern Resident orcas. In the 1960s and 1970s, men in boats and planes used explosives to drive these whales into shallow waters and capture them for marine parks and aquariums. Because the Southern Residents live close to shore, they were specifically targeted for these captures. Normally, these orcas live in close-knit, complex, and loving family units. Not so different from us. Calves stay with their mothers forever. But in the capture years, at least 45 Southern Resident orcas were torn from their families—many of them babies—and shipped around the globe where they were held in pens. The whale families have never recovered.
If you want to know more about the orca captures and the last living Southern Resident in captivity, check out the work of Orca Network and the Lummi Nation to return Lolita (aka Tokitae).
When I remember all that, the connection between my favorite whales and the current atrocities at the border is not so hard to find.
I was at a gathering on the Snake River last summer when I heard Paul Cheoketen Wagner of the Vancouver Island Saanich tribe speak, and he said something like this: “If you disrespect the plant people, you will disrespect the animal people. If you disrespect the animal people, you will disrespect the human people. And if you disrespect the human people, you will disrespect yourself.” I believe that mistreatment spreads, and we must stop it on all fronts.
Today I am grieving for all the families who have been forcibly separated. I am giving to organizations on the front lines (for example the Florence Project) that are working to reunite families, and I am wishing I could do more. I am also speaking up for whales who can’t speak for themselves. You can join me in signing this petition to the new WA State Task Force for the whales. They need more salmon or more of them will starve to death. You can learn more about Orca Month here .
Above all, this time of challenges and sorrows makes me thankful for the helpers and the healers. I am deeply grateful for each of you that is spreading kindness in your own way today.