Photos courtesy The Natural History Museum (Connie McCloud and Shotridge family) and Peter Woodburn (crowd)

Photos courtesy The Natural History Museum (Connie McCloud and Shotridge family) and Peter Woodburn (crowd)

Islanders Flock to “Whale People: Protectors of the Sea”

One of the exhibit’s 25-foot totem poles calls for the protection of sacred Indigenous places.

On July 10, Vashon Heritage Museum opened “Whale People: Protectors of the Sea,” an outdoor exhibit developed by The Natural History Museum with the House of Tears Carvers of the Lummi Nation, with close to 500 people in attendance.

Speakers for the event included Connie McCloud (Puyallup), Sit Ke Kadem James (Lummi), and Siam’elwit James (Lummi) and included drumming and songs from Sue and Israel Shotridge (Tlingit) and their family. Attendees also had a chance to view and touch two remarkable totems — a 25-foot, 5,000-pound totem pole and a 16-foot orca pole — and see an award-winning, outdoor IMAX-style film that is also part of the exhibit.

Douglas James and Siam’elwit, from House of Tears Carvers of the Lummi Nation, brought the 5,000-pound totem to Vashon for one day only, as they embarked on a cross-country journey with the “Red Road to DC” totem.

The journey of the totem is a means to call for the urgent protection of sacred Indigenous places along the way, including Snake River, Bear Ears, Chaco Canyon and the Black Hills.

Ultimately, the totem will be delivered to the Biden-Harris administration, with an event on the National Mall and the opening of an exhibition about the Lummi’s totem pole journeys in the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

The Orca totem and film will remain on exhibit at Vashon Heritage Museum through August.

The museum is open to visitors from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. In addition, it will be open from 6 to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, so visitors can experience the Orca totem and see the film included in “Whale People: Protectors of the Sea.”

Narrated by the late Chief Bill James (Lummi), Master Carver Jewell James (Lummi), and Amy Ta’ah George (Tsleil-Waututh), the film tells the story of the environmental emergency through the figure of the Orca. The impetus for the film and creating the exhibit was the display of grief by Tahlequah, the orca mother who famously carried her dead calf for 17 days in 2020.

The Natural History Museum is a Vashon-based traveling and pop-up museum led by artists, activists and scholars. Its founders, Beka Economopoulos and Jason Jones, moved to Vashon in 2018.

For more information, visit and

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Arts

Review: Experiencing ‘The Tempest’ on an Island is Sublime

It is a revelation to watch Shakespeare on the Great Lawn of Open Space.

Review: Woody Guthrie’s Legacy Is Shared in Exuberant Musical

To single out anyone denies the ensemble effort, which is really what makes the evening special.

Review: ‘Plays in A Snap’ Provides Chance to See New Works

“She’s Hot” and “Legacies: A Ghost Story” were read as part of the Vashon Repertory’s Theatre Fest.

What’s Happening July 29 – Aug. 5

Aerial festival returns to Open Space, concerts in the Park are coming back, and more.

Acclaimed Dancers Create New Work In Residency on Vashon

“We know great things can be produced here on Vashon.”

Ensemble Routine Inspired by Literary Luminary With Sonic Mind

Audience members in attendance will meet five archetypal Samuel Beckett characters.

Yes, They are All Vashon Artists

By Lynann Politte For Vashon Center for the Arts A day doesn’t… Continue reading

The Desert Island Bookworm Shares Mary Roach’s Wondrous List

It’s not often that one of your favorite authors emails you out of the blue.

A Couple Long Separated by Pandemic Finally Shares the Stage

Meghan Ames and Christopher Kehoe will perform in Vashon Repertory Theatre’s production of “The Tempest,” by William Shakespeare.

Listen Up: UMO Ensemble Offers Epic Audio Series

The seven-part audio series will premiere on Voice of Vashon at 9 p.m. Sunday, July, 4.

What’s Happening July 1 – 8

Big summer blockbusters at Vashon Theatre, Drama Dock presents “ART,” and more.

A New Radio Play Has Vashon Written All Over It

The action takes place in 1986 on a thinly-veiled fictional island in Puget Sound.