New outdoor exhibition and IMAX-style film venue

  • Oct 8, 2020

This weekend we debuted our new traveling, outdoor exhibition and IMAX-style film projection venue, with a presentation of “Whale People: Protectors of the Sea“, featuring a 3,000 pound killer whale totem and an award-winning film that tells the story of the environmental emergency through the figure of the orca.


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Indigenous communities in the Pacific Northwest are sounding the alarm, exposing the many threats orcas face, from outdated dams and depleted salmon stocks they depend on for food, to toxic pollution, sound pollution, and the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline that would bring 800 new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 and many other Coast Salish tribes, families are sacred and killer whales are kin. Qw’e lh’ol mechen, the Lummi word for killer whale, translates to “our people that live under the sea”.

Whale People: Protectors of the Sea features the totem pole and a seven-channel immersive IMAX-style video installation that showcases spectacular underwater footage of the orca, and the voices of Indigenous elders who communicate a message that is at the heart of the totem’s journey: what we do to the waters we do to ourselves.

This exhibition and short film 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.


Much gratitude to all involved, including the film’s narrators, Chief Bill James (Lummi), Amy George (Tsleil-Waututh), and Jewell James (Lummi), as well as Lummi tribal member Freddie Lane, Jewell and Doug James of the House of Tears Carvers, Former Lummi Nation Chairman Jay Julius, Otong Durahim, the Indigenous artist from Indonesia who worked with us to design and fabricate this traveling venue, and underwater videographer Florian Graner. We raise our hands to you.

Stops over the next year include museums and Tribal lands in Idaho, Oregon, Northern California, and Washington State. Dedicated to the orcas, the salmon, the health of our waters, and humanity’s future, onward!


Whale People: Protectors of the Sea is a multi-channel film we produced with Lummi and Tsleil-Waututh leaders for an eponymous museum exhibition featuring a 3,000 pound killer whale totem carved by the House of Tears Carvers. Narrated by the late Chief Bill James (Lummi), Master Carver Jewell James (Lummi) and Amy Ta’ah George (Tsleil-Waututh), the 13-minute film tells the story of the environmental emergency through the figure of the orca.

This year it won an award in 3 categories at the Best Shorts Competition (Documentary Short, Native American /Aboriginal Peoples, and Nature /Environment /Wildlife), it won Best Environmental Film in the Global Independent Film Awards, it was the Best Ocean Conservation Short Film at the Tulum World Environment Film Festival, and it was the second most nominated film in the Toronto Beaches Film Festival, winning two awards (Best Environmental Film and Best Editing). It was an official selection at the 2020 Cannes International Independent Film Festival, 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 it’s now part of the IFWW Educator’s Package used by teachers for 3rd grade to university and graduate level programs.