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Tokitae, AKA Lolita, proposed as ferry name

Lolita, aka Tokitae, performs at the Seaquarium in Miami. Officials from the Orca Network submitted a proposal to the Washington State Transportation Commission to name a 64-car ferry the Tokitae. - photo courtesy of the Orca Network
Lolita, aka Tokitae, performs at the Seaquarium in Miami. Officials from the Orca Network submitted a proposal to the Washington State Transportation Commission to name a 64-car ferry the Tokitae.
— image credit: photo courtesy of the Orca Network

A Whidbey-based nonprofit wants a new ferry named after a famed killer whale captured in Penn Cove years ago.

The Orca Network proposed naming a new, 64-car ferry of the “Kwa-di Tabil” class the Tokitae. The Network submitted the name to the Washington State Transportation Commission Thursday.

“That was the name given to the whale captured in Penn Cove in 1970,” said Howard Garrett, member of the Orca Network.

Tokitae was eventually renamed “Lolita” and for decades has been performing at the Miami Seaquarium. Protesters have been trying for years to get Seaquarium officials to free the beloved orca. Garrett said multi-city protests are scheduled May 15. In August, an event will take place commemorating the 40-year anniversary of Lolita’s capture.

“It’s just a beautiful name,” Garrett said of Tokitae, which is a Coastal Salish greeting meaning “nice day, pretty colors.”

The vessel class name Kwa-di Tabil came courtesy of fourth-graders across Admiralty Inlet in Chimacum, who won a contest to select the new ferry class name. Kwa-di Tabil means “little boat” in the Quillayute language. Among other ferry classifications are the Issaquah, Super and Jumbo.

Tokitae is the latest name of an increasingly crowded field of possible designations for the new ferry, which could serve the Port Townsend-to-Keystone route during the busy summer tourist season, beginning in 2011. The first 64-car ferry, the Chetzamoka, is scheduled to start serving the Port Townsend-to-Keystone route in August.

In addition to Tokitae, the Washington State Transportation Commission has received the following proposals:

• Squi Qui, who was a Lower Skagit tribal leader and a signer of the Point Elliott Treaty. His name was submitted by the town of Coupeville and the Swinomish Tribe.

• Salish, which is the name of the Coast Salish people and the geographical name of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Strait of Georgia and the Puget Sound. That name was submitted by the San Juan County Council.

• Al-ki, which is the Washington State motto meaning “by and by,” submitted by the town of Friday Harbor.

• Kulshan, which is the name of Mount Baker given by the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest, submitted by the town of Friday Harbor.

• Lushoot, short for Lushoot-seed, is a member of the Salish language family. Its surviving languages are spoken from northern Oregon to central British Columbia. Lushoot was submitted by the town of Friday Harbor.

Garrett welcomed the competition for naming the new ferry.

“May it be a healthy, spirited competition,” Garrett said.

The Transportation Commission will accept name proposals until April 30 and then start its review and public comment process.

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