MIAMI - Delegates from the Lummi Nation sang a song to their ancestors asking for guidance in their quest to bring one of their own back home.
The delegates from a Native American tribe from the Pacific Northwest say Tokitae, renamed Lolita, has made the Miami Seaquarium enough money.
"It's time for her to retire," said Freddie Lane, a Lummi Nation council member.
Lane and other members of the tribe gathered Thursday at the Miami Circle, a protected native people's burial ground in Miami's Brickell neighborhood. They brought with them the 16-foot totem pole they carved last year in honor of their mission.
The 53-year-old orca has now been living in the nation's smallest whale tank at Miami's Virginia Key for 48 years after being violently taken from her family in Puget Sound, an estuary in the northwestern coast of the U.S. state of Washington.
For the Lummis, Tokitae is not just a killer whale belonging to the oceanic dolphin family; the orca is a relative and a member of their tribe. They want Tokitae to be able to eat fresh salmon again, and be able to swim with her mother and her father again.
As the sun set, they regrouped at the Miami Seaquarium. They plan to meet there again on Friday to march and protest peacefully as they did last year. They will he joined by animal rights activists like Alejandro Dintino, who is protesting every weekend to encourage potential visitors to turn away
Although the Seaquarium isn’t budging -- saying Lolita is well cared for and would never survive the journey -- the Lummis have a plan. They believe it will work and it will give Tokitae back the life that was stolen from her.
"This is our sacred obligation to bring her back," Lane said. "And one way or another, we’re going to bring Lolita home."
The group welcomes all animal lovers to join them on Virginia Key starting at 12:30 p.m.
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