Lament for S’ila
S’ila to W̱SÁNEĆ, LUMMI, Coast Salish Peoples
S’ila, you led generations of Orca kind
in search of life sustaining Salmon
yourself a child of clear and quiet seas, a thriving pod.
You were captured once, deemed too old to train, let go,
though many were taken, never again to hear familiar voices.
You led the remnants of your kin through murky waters that grew loud with curious humans,
greedy for the thrill of your magnificent leaps and splashes,
no longer content to greet your summer arrival from the shore.
You were among the first to be numbered and named as Orcas became our objects of study,
and we learned how few of you remain.
The once plentiful Chinook were harder to find, disappearing.
And S’ila, near the end of your long life - filled with toxins, exhausted with the constant roar of engines, and starving -
you pushed a rare Salmon toward a young one of your family, willing him to live.