A Ritual Recovered

O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy creatures. Yonder is the sea, great and wide, which teems with things innumerable, living things both great and small. -PSALM 104:24-25

I'd heard about the incident days before. Interested, but busy with the usual list of daily tasks for urban living, I thought little of it until

an evening telephone call. It was from a friend who works with an Indian tribe in Washington, a few hours north from the university neighborhood where my family and I have lived for the last 10 years. He had witnessed the event, offering further details. It's come to haunt me with lingering images of tragedy, compassion, and mystery.

In late February, during a week of intermittent rains, a 30-foot minke whale became stranded on the shores of Lummi Island, 90 miles north of Seattle. The media made minimal notice of the event, probably because the island is an isolated, beautiful, protected geography inside the jurisdiction of an American Indian reservation, mostly ignored by outsiders.

The situation immediately drew the attention, however, of the National Marine Fisheries, the federal agency whose job it is to protect marine mammals under provisions of the Endangered Species Act. A designated law enforcement officer soon arrived and discovered there were already dozens of Indian people present from the nearby reservation, many of them in the shifting tides near the whale trying to move it back into deeper water.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1995
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