In December, 2016, Southern Resident orca, J34, was found deceased and floating in the Salish Sea near the Trial Islands in Shishalh traditional territory. In a collaborative effort with the Shishalh Nation, Vancouver Aquarium and DFO, Cetacea assisted with the collection of and care for his remains in order to prepare his skeleton for exhibit in the tems swiya museum. Once in their care, the Shishalh elders renamed J34 (previously Doublestuf,) kwentens ?e te sinkwu, Guardian of the Sea.
This project was particularly meaningful for us as his was the seventh death for the Southern Resident orca population in that year. It seemed especially important to convey something powerful and meaningful with this installation, a legacy for the Shishalh Nation. Having spent years on the coast assisting with orca research and watching these amazing animals in the wild, we chose to convey the story of the Victory Circle.
With the precarious status of their endangered population, the Southern Residents are under extreme pressure. The availability of their preferred prey, chinook salmon, is one of the greatest threats to this group of whales as we see our local salmon populations dwindling. Inspired by this, and as a wish for a better future for these whales, we have postured kwentens ?e te sinkwu as we would have hoped to see him in life. His skeleton can be seen maneuvering through a tight circle at the surface of the ocean, a characteristic behaviour after a successful dive to capture prey. We call this the Victory Circle.
kwentens ?e te sinkwu can be seen at the tems swiya museum in Sechelt, B.C. He is suspended next to a wall mural painted by local artist, Dean Shutz, depicting him with members of his pod as they could have been seen in life.