Beached whale offers rare cultural opportunity, May 9

Coquille Tribe release – NORTH BEND – For the Coquille Indian Tribe, the death of a juvenile gray whale following an orca attack has much deeper cultural significance. That is why the tribe offered to handle the taking and processing of the mammal off Tish-A-Tang Beach in Bandon, Oregon. Jim Rice, the Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator with Oregon State University completed an on-site analysis to help determine what led the 18-foot whale to wash-up near Face Rock on Monday, May 6. The next afternoon, the Tribal Relations representative with Oregon Parks and Recreation realized it held cultural significance and reached out to the Coquille Tribe. Immediately, Tribal Chair Brenda Meade and several tribal and staff members mobilized and were soon on hand to take over responsibility of the mammal’s remains during a ceremony on the beach. “We are going to do what our people have done for thousands of years,” said MJ Parrish, one of the tribal members who helped in the retrieval of the whale. “We are going to celebrate this blessing we have received. We are going to respect this great gift and utilize everything we can.” “We will make certain not to waste its sacrifice,” Chair Meade said, adding that in Coquille Tribal culture an act of this sort is seen as a gift from the creator. “To our knowledge, this is also the first time in generations that our tribe has been able to experience this kind of ceremony. So, this is a truly wonderful gift. And not only for the whale blubber and the bones that we will be able to use. As we prepare to celebrate 35 years since being officially restored as a federally recognized tribe, it is so important that we are able to take this opportunity for the cultural education of tribal members and especially for our youth.” Meade also stressed that the process highlighted the ability of the Tribe’s Cultural and Natural Resource offices to work with partner agencies like Oregon Parks and Rec, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). As it further served to recognize Coquille Tribe’s sovereignty and the importance of Coquille’s cultural practices that revolve around fish and wildlife, particularly in this place of ancestral importance on the Bandon coast.

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