The Suquamish had fought for decades to get their artifacts returned to their lands, and on Tuesday October 29 the ancient objects made a triumphant return home—on a ferry surrounded by rejoicing orcas.
"They were pretty happily splashing around, flipping their tails in the water," said Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman, who was returning home on the ferry from a separate event, to the Associated Press. "We believe they were welcoming the artifacts home as they made their way back from Seattle, back to the reservation."
The 500 artifacts, many up to 2,000 years old, were taken about 60 years ago from the site of the home of Chief Seattle, or Chief Sealth. They were being returned to a new museum that has been built on the site, having resided in the interim at The Burke Museum on the University of Washington campus.
They will be housed back at the site of the so-called Old Man House, which is the burial place of Chief Sealth and was burned down by the U.S. government in the 1800s, the Associated Press noted. The tribe finished building its new museum in 2012 and will display the items in an exhibit, Ancient Shores Changing Tides.
The whales surrounded the ferry as it pulled into the terminal on Bainbridge Island, AP said.
"We believe the orcas took a little break from their fishing to swim by the ferry, to basically put a blessing on what we were on that day," Forsman told AP, adding that there is a spiritual connection between the tribe and the orcas. "They are fishermen like we are.”