The Tokitae Wins!!

Well done everyone! The Seattle Times just reported that one of Washington State’s new 144-car ferries will be named the Tokitae!

For those who don’t know Tokitae, she is an orca who was captured as a baby in 1970 off of Whidbey Island and is the second oldest orca in captivity. She has been dancing for food at the Miami Seaquarium for decades and there is a movement to bring her back to her native waters (a sea pen near the San Juans). Yes, I was skeptical too, but I think this plan could actually work with enough support.

To date the Miami Seaquarium has never answered my inquiries about her (known there as Lolita) and it seems that a lot of other people have had the same experience. She’s a money maker, but for an intelligent wild animal with her own language and culture, she does not belong there. She needs to come home. Her family’s here.

Naming one of the new ferries the Tokitae is a major means by which to generate awareness of her existence and the plan to bring her back to Washington. Many comments on news websites said, “Tokitae who?” when naming considerations were being discussed. Now they’ll know.

I felt very strongly about this and fired off a handful of information packets to individual members of the Transportation Commission. They included copies of all of my blog posts about Tokitae. Many other Tokitae supporters raised their voices as well. State government listened, and we now have the Samish and the Tokitae. Please feel free to send them a thank you for making the right choice, one that will raise awareness for our girl in Miami!

One of my letters is posted below. For those who might be quick to judge me and make assumptions about my political beliefs and motivation, I’m a conservative who is passionate about being a good steward of God’s creation and that includes looking out for His creatures.


October 4, 2012

The Transportation Commission
PO Box 47308
Olympia, WA 98504-7308

Dear Transportation Commission Members:

Thank you—so very much—for considering the name Tokitae for a new Washington State ferry. It is a tremendous opportunity to honor and assist the second-oldest orca in captivity.

It’s clear that Ivar Haglund is the frontrunner, but Ivar passed on long ago. Tokitae is a living native Northwesterner who desperately needs awareness brought to her situation.

I’m sure you are familiar with her story, but I want to emphasize some bullet points from a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago.

            Allow me to introduce you to Lolita:

            -She is a native Northwesterner

            -She’s about (now over) 40 years old

            -She has blue eyes

            -She has been performing for audiences longer than I’ve been alive

            -She is the last surviving member of a group of 45 that was captured and sold into slavery

            -She lives in what must seem like a jail cell compared to her native stomping grounds

            -She enjoys family and friends but lives a largely isolated life

            -She’s a survivor; only one of her kind has been in captivity longer

            -She still retains parts of her native language

            -Her mother is 82 (now 84) years old and still waiting for her daughter to   come home

Naming the new ferry Tokitae is the logical choice. Not only does it meet the state’s naming criteria, but it does not risk being a floating advertisement for a local seafood chain. This will have a lot of people asking, “who or what is a Tokitae?” What a golden opportunity to generate awareness for the official Washington State Marine Mammal!

Considering that orcas are highly intelligent and have their own language and culture, I’ve previously compared Tokitae’s life story to a person being locked in a bathroom for over 40 years and having to dance for their food.  It’s cruel, and there is a viable plan to bring her home to a sea pen in the San Juans.

No other proposed name could benefit anyone or anything the way that the name Tokitae can. Some of the other names honor the past; Tokitae honors a beautiful living creature and her kin for decades to come.

I’ve enclosed some previous blog posts about Tokitae. Back in high school I had a joke sign on my car that said, “Save the Whales, Collect the Whole Set.” Now that I’m a little older and more educated about whales, I’m sickened by Tokitae’s story and the fate of other captive orcas.

Please, please, please, if this becomes an either/or situation, set aside the popular, commercialized idea in favor of the logical, beneficial, and humane idea, Tokitae.

After all, it’s Tokitae’s relatives, possibly even her elderly mother, who will be swimming beside this new ferry.

Thank you so much for your time!


You can see our other ferry names here:

Feel free to visit the Orca Network and Orca Project on the right sidebar. You can also copy the Free Lolita widget to your blog below that.


©2012 H. Hiatt/ All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/

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