It's Up To You
Two summers past, I, Tahlequah swam the Salish Sea carrying my dead daughter.
For 17 days, over 1000 miles, I, the Matriarch with my dead child,
my pod accompanying my grief.
Across countless waves, I, holding my daughter’s spirit.
This fall, I, Tahlequah, frolic with my son, Phoenix.
My pod sees that we eat first.
Salish Sea, why have you betrayed us? We are so hungry!
Columbia River, return to us our Chinook as once you did.
Human family, breach the lower Snake River dams so the Chinook can spawn again. Save us!
Poem by Janet Higbee-Robinson. with minimal editing by me.
This painting is a representation of Tahlequah and her young calf Phoenix, romping in the Salish Sea. The background map depicts the four dams on the lower Snake River that scientists agree need to be breached in order to save the Chinook Salmon that our Resident Orcas rely on. The inset map shows the location of these dams in the larger context as the Snake courses through Idaho, Washington and Oregon, as it then flows into the mighty Columbia.
You may remember Tahlequah, the world famous Southern Resident Orca who gave birth to a calf in the summer of 2019, who died within a half hour. In her deep grief, she carried that calf for 17 days, through 1000 miles before letting it drift to the depths. This is a very sad story which illustrates the dire needs of our Resident Orcas for sustenance in their home waters. The good news is that, she, Tahlequah, gave birth again this past summer in 2020 to a healthy calf who is thriving today, named Phoenix. These two symbolize the hope that we carry for this iconic and unique apex predator species in our midst.
The Southern Resident Orca Whale population of the Salish Sea is in peril of extinction for several reasons, the most critical of which is, the seriously dwindling supply of their preferred prey, “Threatened” Chinook Salmon. The science shows that the most significant thing we can do to prevent both species’ extinction , is to breach the four dams on the lower Snake River. This would open up thousands of river miles of pristine spawning grounds and, based on the excellent successes of other dam removal projects in the Pacific Northwest (i.e. the Elwha), restore the river for the return of abundant runs of salmon, in turn providing the food supply that our orcas need to survive and thrive. It is up to us humans, to take care of our relatives in the sea and this is how we do it.
The Southern Resident Orcas, iconic first creatures of the Salish Sea, rely on Chinook for 80% of their diet.
Salmon not only feed Orcas but replenish entire riparian systems: soil, plants, trees and eagles.
Salmon and Orca benefit our region culturally and economically. They link the region to Salish Sea peoples and their ancient practices. They inspire tourism and art: whale watching, charter fishing, photography and murals.
The lower Snake River dams contribute to climate change and waste taxpayer money.
These dams were designed to be breached, with earthen sections that can easily be removed. They were designed to be functional for 50 years and we are well past that time.
So the time is now. Please call your legislators to get on board with Congressman Simpson’s new bill to breach the dams now.
Call Governor Jay Inslee
Call Senator Patty Murray