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The next state ferry will be named Tokitae
The Washington Transportation Commission decided Tuesday to name the two new state ferries now under construction the Tokitae (Toe-key-tay) and the Samish. The names keep the tradition of giving ferries regional tribal names. Tokitae was submitted by the Whidbey Island based nonprofit Orca Network, and Samish was submitted by the Samish Tribe.
Deb Lund, Whidbey Island author of children's books, first suggested Orca Network submit the name Tokitae for one of the new Washington State Ferries in 2010. The name was not chosen, but was popular and ranked in the top five of all names submitted, so Orca Network again proposed the name in 2012.
The name symbolizes both the cultural and natural history of Washington, and meets all of the criteria for a WSF name. In the announcement on Tuesday from the WA State Transportation Commission, it was stated the name "Tokitae" came in as the number one choice of all the people, committees, and the state ferry staff surveyed.
Orca Network gathered over 1500 signatures on a petition to name the ferry Tokitae, including support from people in 44 states and 33 countries; and signatures both from those who want to see Tokitae/Lolita released from the Miami Seaquarium, and the whale trainers who know and work with her at the Miami Seaquarim.
The cultural meaning of Tokitae derives from a Coastal Salish or Chinook jargon greeting, meaning "nice day, pretty colors," used when members of different tribes that have dwelled along the shores of the Salish Sea rivers for millennia met one another while traveling or trading. This meaning also aptly describes the experience one has while riding a WA State Ferry in the beautiful Salish Sea.
In 1970 Dr. Jesse White, a veterinarian employed by the Miami Seaquarium, came to Seattle to select a whale from among seven that had been captured off Whidbey Island in August. According to his daughter Lisa, he bonded with one young female and decided to name her Tokitae, a word he had seen in a gift shop on the Seattle waterfront.
Howard Garrett of Orca Network said "The name Tokitae represents and honors this orca (renamed Lolita after she arrived in Miami) and her family, the Southern Resident orcas that range throughout the Salish Sea and beyond. Some of this extended family of about 84 orcas are seen almost every month of every year, often from the ferries that ply the waters of the Salish Sea."
The orca captures of the 60s and 70s were a sad chapter from our State's history, and contributed greatly to the current endangered status of the Southern Resident orcas. Only 71 orcas remained after 45 were removed and transported to marine parks around the world, and the population has never recovered to pre-capture numbers.
WSDOT News Release about the ferry naming:
Orca Network's proposal to name the ferry Tokitae: