Exhibition + IMAX-style Film
by Lummi Nation and The Natural History Museum
Killer whales, or orcas, are a “miner’s canary” for the ocean. Their health indicates the health of the seas, the salmon stocks, the ancestral waters and way of life of coastal Indigenous communities, and the well-being of future generations.
The orca is among the most contaminated and critically endangered marine mammals in the world. From the Lummi Nation to the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Indigenous communities in the Pacific Northwest are sounding the alarm, exposing the many threats orcas face, from outdated dams and depleted salmon stocks they depend on for food, to toxic pollution, sound pollution, and the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline that would bring 800 new oil tankers annually to the Salish Sea.
The House of Tears Carvers of the Lummi Nation has been traveling with a 3,000 pound carved whale totem to raise awareness about the plight of killer whale–one of the Lummi’s most revered relations. For the Lummi, killer whales are kin. Qw’e lh’ol mechen, the Lummi word for killer whale, translates to “our people who live under the sea”.
Whale People: Protectors of the Sea is an exhibition and IMAX-style film installation that tells the story of today’s environmental emergency through the figure of the orca. From the Pacific Northwest to the Gulf Coast, fossil fuel pollution and industrial development places at risk our collective natural and cultural heritage. Native communities coast to coast enjoin us all to protect, restore, and pass on to future generations a respect for each other, the sacred waters, and all our relations.
Visitors are invited to lay hands on the orca pole, as thousands of others have on its journeys. A seven-channel immersive video installation features spectacular underwater footage of the orca, and the voices of Indigenous elders communicate a message that is at the heart of the totem’s journey: what we do to the waters we do to ourselves.
Indoor and Outdoor versions
The exhibition debuted in 2018 inside the Florida Museum of Natural History, where it was paired with items from Northwest Coast Tribes featuring depictions of the orca. During COVID closures in 2020, we custom-fabricated a mobile, outdoor exhibition venue with a 30′ wide octagonal open-air tent with 7 contiguous 15′ high screens. Within this immersive film installation sits the 16-foot orca carving. This outdoor, traveling pop-up exhibition has been touring Pacific Northwest venues and tribal lands since 2020.
About the Film
Whale People: Protectors of the Sea is a 13-minute multi-channel film produced with Lummi and Tsleil-Waututh elders for an eponymous museum exhibition that tells the story of today’s environmental emergency through the figure of the orca. In 2020 it won an award in 3 categories at the Best Shorts Competition (Documentary Short, Native American /Aboriginal Peoples, and Nature /Environment /Wildlife), 2 categories in the Toronto Beaches Film Festival (best environmental film, best editing), Best Ocean Conservation Short Film at the Tulum World Environment Film Festival, and Best Environmental Film at the Global Independent Film Festival. It was an official selection at the 2020 Cannes International Independent Film Festival, Cannes 7th Art Awards, International Wildlife Film Festival (IWFF), American Documentary and Animation Film Festival, Toronto Short Film Festival, Woodstock Museum Film Festival, Tacoma Film Festival, and Dreamspeakers International Film Festival, and the 2022 Festival Internacional de las Artes Cinematograficas de San Cristobal de las Casas. It is now part of the IFWW Educator’s Package used by teachers for 3rd grade to university and graduate level programs.
Whale People at the Gathering of the Eagles
See the Whale People exhibition this May 27-29 at the Lummi Nation Stommish Grounds, during the Gathering of the Eagles canoe journey, Honoring Celebration of Master Carver Jewell James, and the Alliance of Earth, Sky, and Water Protectors Summit.read more...
Spirit of the Waters & Whale People at Umatilla
Spirit of the Waters Totem Pole Journey brings together ceremony, art, science, spirituality, ancestral knowledge, and cross-cultural collaboration in support of the movement to remove the Snake River dams and restore to health the Snake River salmon and the orcas that depend on them.read more...
Whale People: Outdoor Exhibition + IMAX-Style Film at Eugene
Whale People: Protectors of the Sea is an outdoor exhibition featuring a 3,000 pound orca totem pole, salmon carvings, and an award-winning IMAX-style film projection that tells the story of today’s environmental emergency through the figure of the orca.read more...
Whale People: Outdoor Exhibition + IMAX-Style Film at Vashon
This exhibition features a 3,000 pound killer whale (orca) totem carved by the House of Tears Carvers and an award-winning multi-channel film installation that tells the story of the environmental emergency through the figure of the killer whale. It also tells the story of the leadership of Native Nations in protecting the Salish Sea, the orcas, the salmon, and our collective future.read more...
Whale People, outdoor exhibition + IMAX-style film at Lummi Nation
This outdoor exhibition and IMAX-style film features a 3,000 pound killer whale totem, underwater orca footage, multi-channel projections, and footage from the First Nations-led protests against the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline. Join us for its debut at Lummi Nation with a program featuring speakers dedicated to the protection of the Salish Sea and the orcas who call it home.read more...
Whale People: Protectors of the Sea, Florida
This exhibition and short film, debuting at the Florida Museum of Natural History, tells the story of today’s environmental emergency through the figure of the orca. Native communities coast to coast enjoin us all to protect, restore, and pass on to future generations a respect for each other, the sacred waters, and all our relations.read more...