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Washington ferry's new name a nod to whale, tribal heritage

Nov 17 2012

A new Washington state ferry will remind travellers of a southern resident killer whale who has spent 42 years in captivity.

One of two new ferries, which will sail Puget Sound when completed, will be called Tokitae, the name given to a young whale captured in the area in 1970. Her name was changed to Lolita when she was taken to Miami Seaquarium, where she still performs.

The name was proposed by Orca Network, a non-profit group trying to bring the whale back to her home waters.

"The honour of naming the next new ferry Tokitae is a tribute to her strength and spirit," said Howard Garrett of Orca Network, noting that the 44 other southern resident orcas that were captured had all died by 1987.

Captures were banned in Washington in 1976, but the endangered whales have never recovered to pre-capture numbers, believed to be about 120. There are currently about 85 animals in three pods.

The word tokitae is a Coast Salish greeting meaning "nice day, pretty colours." Samish, the name of the other new ferry, means "the giving people."

The names were chosen from seven proposals reflecting the state's tribal heritage.

Orca Network will continue to try to bring Tokitae/Lolita back to Puget Sound, Garrett said.

"Maybe someday Tokitae the whale will have a chance to swim in the Salish Sea alongside the ferry bearing her name," he said. jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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