Samish Tribe names the newest member of J Pod

The Samish Tribe recently held a formal ceremony to name J-45, a killer whale first spotted in March. See the Kitsap Sun, March 5. The young orca is the son of J-14, named Samish.

It is becoming a tradition for the Samish Tribe to name the offspring of the whale we call Samish, now a 35-year-old female. Samish is the granddaughter of J-2, or Granny as she is called. Granny is possibly the oldest living orca among the Puget Sound whales.

Officials with The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor participated in the naming ceremony Saturday. They provided the account below, which I think you will enjoy reading.

By the way, some of our local orcas have shown up in Central Puget Sound, where they were sighted this morning between Fauntleroy and Southworth. I have not yet heard if these animals have been identified. (Note: I updated this with a story late this afternoon.)

The Samish Indian Nation Names New Calf J-45

Friday Harbor — On Saturday, October 17, 2009, the Samish Indian Nation held a traditional potlatch naming ceremony for J-45, the newest J Pod calf in the Southern Resident Community of orcas.

The Whale Museum participated in the ceremony by providing ceremonial gifts for the attendees as well as a greeting by Executive Director Jenny Atkinson. The museum was asked to appoint a witness to the ceremony. Because of her role as the Orca Adoption Program Coordinator and the storykeeper of the whales, Jeanne Hyde was named.

“It was an honor to be asked to witness, ” Jeanne noted.

Being a witness to the ceremony requires one to remember the ceremony and then witness to the gathering what was seen and heard. Witnesses also have the duty to pass on to others what they observed at the ceremony.

Blankets played a significant role in the ceremony. Each witness had a blanket placed over one shoulder. Four blankets were ceremoniously placed on the floor. A young person named Jacob was appointed to carry the image of J-45, the orca calf to be named.

(The original version of this news release said Jacob was the grandson of Dr. Wayne Suttles, who spent his career working with the Coast Salish people. Apparently, that is the way Jacob was introduced, but staff of the Whale Museum later corrected this misinformation. After Dr. Suttles’ death in 2005, the Samish Nation honored him by giving J-40 the name “Suttles” on October 6, 2005.)

Two blankets were placed on Jacob, one on each shoulder. He then walked to the center of the blankets, where words were spoken in the Samish language. Jacob then moved off the blankets with the image and slowly moved about the 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-45’s name was announced: Se-Yi-Chn (pronounced “sea-ee-chin”). This name means younger one. In the Samish language there is no name for brother or sister, but only references to older or younger with the emphasis always being placed on the older or elder ones.

In his family group, Se-Yi-Chn is the younger one to Granny (J-2), Ruffles (J-1), Samish (J-14), Riptide (J-30), Hy’Shqa (J-37) and Suttles (J-40), as well as to all in J Pod.

The Naming Ceremony promoted a feeling of community and commitment. Also in attendance, museum board member Fred Felleman observed, “We all share in the responsibility to help assure that Se-Yi-Chn has a clean, productive and serene environment in which to grow up.”

Se-Yi-Chn 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 ecosystem through education and research.

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