June brings with it warmth, weekend getaways, and most importantly (to us anyways), whales!! We have been out scouting the waters and have been greeted by many of our fluke-tailed friends, including humpback whales, minke whales, and other cetaceans including killer whales, white-sided dolphins and porpoises.
Our connection to cetaceans runs deep, so deep that the spirit of our ancestors is within killer whales. It is believed that sea hunters, once they pass on, come back as ma̱’a̱mx̱’inux̱w (killer whales).
A Musgamakw Dzawada̱’enux̱w legend brings this belief to life, as told by late ‘giga̱me Yaḵała̱nlis, Ernie Willie:
“In a bizarre way our people cried when they first caught a killer whale named “Mobido”. Several years before there was this young boy named Baba’gwa̱m. He was a good hunter and he wanted to try his prowess in the open sea. He wanted to hunt a killer whale, max̱inux̱.
So Baba’gwa̱m would go to this island where he knew that the max̱nux̱ would play from time to time and he would bring his harpoons. He was able to get the harpoons stuck in the max̱inux̱ alright but wasn’t able to kill one. He was just hunting them and that was all, mitła.
Finally one day a big bull killer whale came right up to the beach. It opened its mouth and a man came running out from it and chased Baba’gwa̱m. In no time at all the man caught up to Baba’gwa̱m and when he did he grabbed both of the boy’s achilles tendons and ripped them right off. He didn’t kill Baba’gwa̱m but at that point he told the boy,
“You’ll remember from this day forward that we too are men, and you will live a long life to tell this to others. This will be your plight from here on in. You cannot walk anymore but you must tell our story.”
For many years Baba’gwa̱m told the killer whale’s story and passed this story onto many generations. He reminded his people that they must respect nature and remember that all living creatures are like humans. They have families to look after and feeling just as we do.
With this connection comes a respect for all cetaceans. In the past few years g̱wi’g̱wa̱’ya̱m (humpback whales) have been making a splash once again in our traditional territory. Welcoming them back has been our honour and our pleasure.
Introducing our guests to our seafaring ancestors, and friends has been a special experience that we are excited to continue to do throughout the summer.