On Saturday, June 29, 2013, the Samish Indian Nation held a traditional potlatch naming ceremony for J-49, the newest J Pod calf in the Southern Resident Community of orcas.
The Whale Museum participated in the ceremony by providing ceremonial gifts for the attendees as well as a greeting by Executive Director Jenny Atkinson and a Power Point presentation on the genealogy of J-49’s family by Cindy Hansen, Education Curator and Connie Domenech, Membership Department Coordinator. The Museum was asked to appoint a witness to the ceremony. Because of her role as the Education Curator, Cindy Hansen was named. Being a witness to the ceremony requires one to remember the ceremony and then witness to the gathering what was seen and heard. Witnesses also have the duty to pass on to others what they observed as well as the story of the whale named.
Blankets played a significant role in the ceremony. Each witness had a blanket placed over one shoulder. Four blankets were ceremoniously placed on the floor. A young person was appointed to carry the image of J-49, the orca calf to be named. He then walked to the center of the blankets where words were spoken in the Samish language. The young man moved off the blankets with the image and slowly moved about the gathering 'introducing' this young killer whale to all in attendance. Proceeding behind him were reverent singers and drummers. When the ceremony ended, the framed image and blankets were given as gifts to honor others in attendance.
J-49's name was announced: T’ílem Ínges (pronounced "teelem eenges"). This name means “singing grandchild.” The Naming Ceremony promoted a feeling of community and commitment. This ceremony was the 4th traditional potlatch naming ceremony. The tradition started with T’ílem Ínges’ mother Hy’Shqa (J-37) in 2001. Hy’Shqa means “thank you” or “blessing” in Coast Salish. The ceremony was special to both The Whale Museum and the Samish Nation as it symbolized the continuation of the tradition of naming the whale calves of this orca matriline.
T’ílem Ínges (J-49) is now entered into the Orca Adoption Program where he can be symbolically adopted. Adopting this young calf or another whale in the Southern Resident Community supports the mission of The Whale Museum which promotes stewardship of whales and the Salish Sea eco-system through education and research.