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B.C. First Nation mourns ‘heartbreaking’ death of beached orca mom

Community to hold dinner to gather and connect with culture

Ehattesaht First Nation chief Simon John said that seeing a Kakawin (orca) pass away on a local beach was “heartbreaking.”

On March 23, a passing road maintenance crew spotted the killer whale stranded on a gravel bar in a Little Espinoza Inlet lagoon near the village of Ehatis on Vancouver Island. The community and DFO responded to help the whale, but were unsuccessful in trying to save her.

“They are such magnificent animals and I have been with them on the water almost my whole life. But they are always at a bit of distance. Being so close and touching her seeing her calf and being so helpless is hard to describe. Its really upsetting and we had so many from the local community there to help but when you have a sad ending it really is hard on everyone who was there,” John said.

A statement from Ehattesaht Chief and Council says that in Ehattesaht stories, the killer whale came onto the land and transformed into the wolf. The wolf then transformed into man.

“It is really important to remember that we are connected to these animals and I believe these events are really difficult but really important,” John said. “Everyone is to a certain extent and we have to take a bit of time to think what it means to us all.

The statement says that the priority now is to assist the whale’s calf in reuniting her with her pod.

“For the next few days we will be concentrating on the baby and we will be giving her a name. kwiisaḥiʔis (kwee-sa- hay-is) (Brave Little Hunter) But we will have to think about her safety and limiting all the human interaction so we will be closing the road for most of the day with local traffic only passing,” John said. “I know people will want to visit and help but really DFO and ourselves need some time to formulate a plan and we need to think about the little one.”

The statement also said that the lagoon has a narrow entrance and that a future goal will be to widen or otherwise improve the entrance to the lagoon so something like this cannot happen again.

“It was always been a hunting ground for the killer whales looking for seals and I guess she went to far up the beach at the exact wrong time,” John said. “It is something we will want fixed.”

The events have had a major effect on the community, in particular the team that went out to help the whale.

“We want to support the team that went out to help and we need to thank them. You know we work on big things all the time,” John said. “Our people, the toxic drugs, UNDRIP and reconciliation, jobs but then something like this happens and you are forced to reconnect. I think there is something here. Telling us to reconnect. Take this time and focus on one thing and try to do it to the best of our teachings and what the experts have to offer.”

Ehattesaht First Nation will be holding a community dinner to allow people to gather, share a meal and connect with their culture and teachings.

“These are events that reawaken our people and our connection to the land, the water and the animals,” he said. “I am not sure but sometimes in the sad events we gather strength. I think that is important.”

RELATED: Beached orca on Vancouver Island was pregnant, DFO necropsy says

Mother orca dies after becoming beached on northern Vancouver Island

Marc Kitteringham

About the Author: Marc Kitteringham

I joined Black press in early 2020, writing about the environment, housing, local government and more.
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