The WA Transportation Commission is again looking for suggestions for two new 144-car ferries now under construction ( http://www.wstc.wa.gov/news/2012/2012_0801_WSTC_Naming144carferries.htm ).
Orca Network respectfully proposes the Salish greeting, "Tokitae" as an honorable name for one of the next two 144 car ferries under construction. In our research, we've been told "Tokitae" is a Coast Salish greeting meaning "Nice day, pretty colors", or a Chinook jargon word meaning "pretty"; and is also the name given to an L pod orca captured at Penn Cove, Whidbey Island, in 1970 by Seaquarium veterinarian Dr. Jessie White.
Deb Lund, Whidbey Island author of children's books, first suggested the name Tokitae for one of the new Washington State Ferries in 2010, and it was popular and ranked in the top five of all names submitted, so we are re-submitting the name for consideration in the 2012 ferry naming contest.
Tokitae was taken to a marine park in Miami 42 years ago, where she was put into service as an entertainer, and subsequently named Lolita. She is the last survivor of the approximately 45 Southern Resident orcas captured in WA state during the capture era of the 1960s and 70s. Washington State put an end to this chapter of our history by banning orca captures in state waters in 1976, but the captures had resulted in a taking of 1/3 to 1/2 of the entire Southern Resident orca population, a depletion they have still not overcome. In 2005, the Southern Resident orcas were listed as Endangered, under the Endangered Species Act. As of today, there are only 86 Southern Resident orcas in Salish Sea waters, not counting Tokitae/Lolita, in Miami.
In 2005, the orca became the Washington State Marine Mammal, due to the research and persuasion of second graders from the Crescent Harbor Elementary School in Oak Harbor, Washington. This symbol is intended to promote orca awareness and to encourage protection of the natural marine habitat. 2012 marks the 6th consecutive year that June has been proclaimed "Orca Awareness Month" by Governor Gregoire.
We believe "Tokitae" represents what we feel when we're on a ferry on the Salish Sea: "Nice day, pretty colors." It is a cultural, historical greeting that reflects the beauty of the region, and honors Washington's Native heritage, as do other Washington State Ferry names.
Orca Network has had a wonderful partnership with Washington State Ferries, providing naturalists to tell passengers about orcas, marine life and salmon onboard the ferries, and encouraging ferry crew and passengers to be on the lookout for whales as they ferries ply our waters daily. The WSF system has been very helpful in reporting orcas and other whales to Orca Network, in allowing our naturalists onboard, and working with us to make sure no orcas are disturbed during construction or maintenance at their ferry docks. We feel the name Tokitae would strengthen this relationship between the ferries and our most beloved Pacific NW icon, the orca.
Tokitae also honors the orca, an endangered species and official State Marine Mammal, and Tokitae/Lolita, an orca who has been missing for 42 years. It's a name that causes us to celebrate our waters and the beauty around us, to appreciate our marine life, and reflect upon the region's history and culture.
Please sign this petition in support of naming one of the new ferries "Tokitae," and share your thoughts on why you support this action - thank you!