When a dead orca was found beached on the west coast of Vancouver Island, one of the first people notified was the First Nations band who lives on the territory.
The Mowachaht/Muchalaht territory is an important and sacred place for the Indigenous people there and a sacred ceremony was held to honour the orca.
According to Windspeaker News, the place has particular significance. Yuquot, as it is known is where the stones along the beach are rubbed smooth by the ocean waves, and whales have come to the territory to run their bodies over them. Yuquot is also known as the birthplace of British Columbia, as it’s where Captain James Cook first stepped on North American soil. It is the only place in Canada where there was a Spanish settlement established
Killer whales, or kakawin in the language of the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples along the West Coast of Vancouver Island, are considered ancestors.
On Friday, Nov. 15, Elders, chiefs, and other community members gathered to decide on a proper send off for the spirit of the young whale.
Nearly 60 Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation members were on site and performed a ceremony to allow the spirit of the whale to go home.
Tyee Ha’wilth (head hereditary chief) Mike Maquinna (Ambrose’s son) spoke to the cultural importance of the killer whale. Elders spoke about the “wolf of the sea.”
“He came ashore, when he came ashore,” said Williams. “He turned into a wolf, and the wolf became a guardian of the wafag house. That’s the importance of the kakawin.”
The wolf is extremely spiritually significant to the Nuu-chah-nulth culture, and particularly the hereditary chiefs.
Chief Maquinna expressed his very deep concern about mammals dying in the waters. He asked DFO to ensure the Nation received a report as to why this killer whale died.
“This is very concerning to our people. We ask DFO to report back to us as to the cause of death of this young whale so that we can understand what is happening in our waters.”
The whale was transported Friday and a necropsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.
The ceremony showed the respect that the Mowachaht/Muchalaht people have for all living creatures. They are the keepers of the land and are the best managers of the resources in their territory, whether they be on land or in the waters, read a statement from the Nation.
Mowachaht/Muchalaht Chief Jerry Jack Jr. blanketed DFO representatives for handling the passing of the young Kakawin appropriately and thanked them on behalf of his late father for learning that orcas are the ancestors of the nation’s great hunters.
h/t: Windspeaker News