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The Extraordinary Life of K7 Lummi


Photos by Cindy Hansen left to right; K7 Lummi with family members. K7 Lummi 1910 (est) – 2008. Members of Lummi canoe family at memorial for K7.

Lummi, K7 was the monumental matriarch of K Pod, and 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 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 remember her beauty, her strength, her devotion, and her legacy. And I see her spirit in the family members she left behind.


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