Dakota/Salish Artist Robert "Running Fisher" Upham wrote "Tahlequah is an orca, part of the 'J Pod' which spends part of each year off the northern coast of Washington State. Her story became known to the human community in 2018, when she carried her calf for 17 days, refusing to let her baby go to the Spirit World. There was something about her life and her baby’s death, which spoke to human hearts. Particularly women were moved. It felt at the time, that there was a collective grieving with her. Anyone who’s ever lost a loved one that you did not want to let go of can understand this mother’s grieving. Especially a young, sacred one, who has died too soon. It felt that she was calling heart to heart. The story brought attention not only to her child’s death but also to the very difficult times in which her nation has fallen. The imbalance which pits orcas and sea lions and salmon for the same resources is a microcosm of ecological disease. The human nation, particularly those who see our mother earth as merely a source of 'resources' is under indictment by the simple act of love of a mother for her baby. This drawing, 'Tahlequah’s Baby' is the moment when she finally allowed her beloved to move on to the Spirit World. There are many helpers assisting her to lift her baby to its final moments in this world."
Upham continued, "I had heard of Tahlequah and her baby, and several people asked me to do a ledger of her story. But it wasn’t until a young woman understood the meaning and intent behind the signatures on my ledgers, and she sparked my creativity by saying, 'You should do a piece honoring the names of all the orcas who have died.' And, just like that, the idea for this piece was born." Other examples of his ledger art and paintings are here.
Upham's art brought focus to learning from the nonhuman world. He gave me permission to include his art and text above. Tahlequah, noted by scientists as a Southern Resident orca, showed the importance of real grieving before moving on. National Geographic authors Lori Cuthbert and Douglas Main wrote August 13, 2018, "The death of another calf is a significant blow to J Pod, which hasn’t seen a successful birth in three years. Combined, the three pods have 75 members, and time is running out to maintain its viability. Ken Balcomb, founder and principal investigator at the Center for Whale Research, gives it five years [ . . . . ] to have viable offspring [ . . . . ] 'We have long demonstrated that these fish-eating whales are getting skinnier and skinnier, and the death rate is increasing,' [Balcomb] writes on the center’s website. 'Whales in this endangered population are dependent upon Chinook salmon for their primary food source. Unfortunately, Chinook salmon are also endangered.'"
My May 2, 2019 post "Epic of Gilgamesh and Climate Change" cited a report from The Guardian, "The Lummi Nation is dropping live salmon into the sea in a last-ditch rescue effort" to save starving orcas. I included the Dammed to Extinction Trailer, about a minute long, showing the best way to help orcas, as Dr. Deborah Giles said, "is to breach the lower four Snake River dams." The post links to the anthology FOR LOVE OF ORCAS. Editors Andrew Shattuck McBride and Jill McCabe Johnson noted "proceeds from sales of the book will benefit the SeaDoc Society's efforts to restore the Southern Resident orcas and their extended ecosystem."