Today we honor the legendary matriarch of K Pod, K7 “Lummi”. Lummi was thought to be the oldest member of the Southern Resident orca community when she died in 2008 at an estimated age of 98 years old. Imagine all she saw and experienced in her lifetime, as she led her family through the waters of the Pacific Northwest. If her estimated age is correct, she would have lived 63 years before the passage of the Endangered Species Act, and would have been 95 years old when the Southern Residents were listed. What an amazing legacy from a special whale.
Check out the story below to read an account of Lummi’s life, written by Orca Network’s Education and Advocacy Coordinator, Cindy Hansen.
K7 Lummi with members of K Pod. Photos ©Cindy Hansen.
K7 Lummi is a legendary K Pod matriarch. She was one of the most easily recognizable whales in the Southern Resident community, with her beautiful saddle patch and the double notches in her dorsal fin. She was estimated to be 98 years old when her remarkable life finally came to an end. Just imagine all that she experienced in her decades of traveling the waters with her family. In her estimated birth year of 1910, Sir Wilfred Laurier was Prime Minister of Canada, William Taft was President of the United States, the waters were free of industrial chemicals, Pacific Northwest rivers were flowing freely, and salmon was plentiful. Over the next century, Washington State and B.C. Ferries began transporting passengers throughout the Salish Sea, shipping traffic and recreational boater traffic increased, DDT and PCBs were invented and then later banned, and overfishing, habitat destruction, and the construction of dams led to a precipitous decline in Pacific salmon. Lummi witnessed her family members first being shot at and used for target practice, then rounded up and kidnapped for a life of captivity, and finally being loved and appreciated by people from all over the world.
To me, she always seemed like a unique kind of matriarch. While Granny was demonstrative and made it very clear that she was in charge, Lummi seemed to calmly and gently lead her family through all of the births and deaths and changes taking place around her. In 2005, she took in teenaged Onyx L87 after the death of his mother and allowed him to join her large extended family, demonstrating that, for these whales, family is more than who you are born to.
When Lummi died in 2008, a memorial was held for her at Lime Kiln Point State Park. Non-profit organizations, naturalists, researchers, and whale lovers gathered together to celebrate this extraordinary life, and a canoe family from the Lummi Nation performed a blessing to send her on her way. The event was powerful, elegant, and serene, much like the whale herself. Now, whenever I see K Pod, I think of Lummi. I see her spirit in the family members she left behind, and I remember her beauty, her strength, her devotion, and her lasting legacy.
Lummi Memorial with members of the Lummi Nation. Photos ©Cindy Hansen.