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Chumash Honor Dead Whale Stuck on Malibu Beach

The ceremony took place at sunset Tuesday and involved a sacred fire and meant to give respect to the 40-foot Fin whale.

Members of the Chumash tribe and several other Malibu residents took part in a ceremony this week to honor a dead whale that washed ashore on Little Dume.

The 40-foot male Fin whale came ashore on Monday at the exclusive Malibu beach and immediately got stuck in between some rocks. Researchers determined on Tuesday that the whale died of injuries from a ship strike following a necropsy, a term describing an autopsy on animals.

"This young male got hit and killed for no fault of his own," said Chumash ceremonial leader Mati Waiya. "We have to remember there is a family out there that is going to miss this beautiful creature.”

Waiya said the ceremony, which took place at sunset Tuesday and involved a sacred fire, meant to honor and give respect to the whale. 

Waiya's wife, Luhui Isha Waiya said the scene of the cut open whale from the necropsy was shocking.

"It was a little disturbing to say the least because they were a little extreme in taking the body apart," Luhui Waiya said. "They took his eyes out. They took other organs. His intestines were all there right toward the sand side, just strewn right outside of its body. They took big chunks of the flesh, different parts."

As agencies are currently dodging taking action to remove the whale's rotting carcas from the beach, she hopes that in the future the Chumash are included in the conversation. She said she has reached out to California State Parks and L.A. County officials this week.

"As a community it might be a good idea to think together rather than apart. In this modern world, we are often pushed to think as individuals rather than the collective. We end up thinking what is best for me rather than what is best for the whole," she said.

Luhui Waiya said a ceremony was performed to give the whale the respect it deserved.

"We sang to it. Just giving the respect of this creative deserve. These are our ocean relatives," she said.

In the tribe's creation story, the Chumash crossed over a rainbow bridge from Santa Cruz Island to the mainland.

"They were warned not to look down from the rainbow bridge as they were crossing. They couldn't help themselves. They look down, got dizzy and fell," Luhui Waiya said.

As the people plunged into the ocean, they were turned into dolphins.

"Our brother and sisters are the dolphins. From our creation story, those are the brother and sisters in the sea," she said.

Both Luhui and Mati Waiya said they hope the whale is not left on the beach, where it has become a spectacle for the media and passerby.

"I hope they don’t just let it linger there. It was beautiful when it landed and then it gets mutilated and they don’t even take it out," Mati Waiya said.

Marie Cunningham December 08, 2012 at 06:36 PM
I hope they remove the whale. I don't think any animal should be left to decompose on a beach. Also, wouldn't it be unhealthy/unsanitary to leave the carcass?
Stephanie Winnard December 09, 2012 at 02:05 AM
I loved the words of Mati Waiya and Luhui Waiya. I am glad members of the Chumash honored the whale. They are such beautiful creatures. I am very sad for the whale and his family. I also really love the creation story of the Chumash. I was wondering if the necropsy revealed what type of ship hit the whale? I too hope they remove the remains of the whale and show honor and respect for the deceased whale.
jamie p December 10, 2012 at 02:27 AM
jamie p From DFG website: "Disposal of dead marine mammals is considered a 'take' under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, and must be reported to NMFS. Additionally, it is unlawful to take or possess parts of dead marine mammals without prior authorization from National Marine Fisheries Service." obviously some people have the resorces to get what they want. sure wish i could fund my own "take" privelige back! I think a marine reserve that is protected to such a degree that they ask people not to beach kayaks., because it'll kill sand crabs, ought to then accept mother natures bounty of nutrients from dead whales regardless of how unpleasant that may be. After all these MPAs were argued to be "nurseries". A natural gift of so much nutrients in one location is rare for the local marine community and any sharks it may attract is just part of the circle of life therein. like in the old days chumash would gather bones as tools and decoration.. some other parts probably used for other porposes. people and children learned from the viewing and all would pay great respect. what i saw was not much different in the past week.. there was more talk over the excitement than the burden. i saw people from out of town and local families walking down two or three times just to see the progress. so who are the ones that selfishly decided that their consuption was enough and made the decision to terminate what was most natural and respected?
jamie p December 10, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Luhui Waiya "As a community it might be a good idea to think together rather than apart. In this modern world, we are often pushed to think as individuals rather than the collective. We end up thinking what is best for me rather than what is best for the whole," she said.
Kelli December 10, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Very fitting, and respectful, for the Chumash to hold a ceremony to honor the whale. These whales are wonderful creatures and should be revered.
JR December 10, 2012 at 06:05 PM
I would just like to clarify...the eyes of the whale were not removed by researchers. One of the ears was removed so that it could be determined if there was a problem with the whale's navigation. The Navy does blasting every year and many marine mammals die from it because they lose their echolocation abilities. By examining the ear bones, a determination can be made. I would also like to state that the necropsy was not over kill as stated by the Chumash. Unless you've ever preformed a necropsy, you don't know what is involved. Researchers only did what they had to do to obtain samples to determine if the whale was healthy or sick when it got hit by the ship. It had numerous different types of parasites on it when it washed up...More information will be available when the test results come back. Unfortunately, after the necropsy, many people that came to view the whale, removed parts for souvenirs, which is illegal. I was there on Thursday and photographed one of the eyes and it was still very much intact. The towboat Captain obtained permission from authorities and got coordinates for the whales final resting place from NMFS. The whales life was not lost in vain, as he provided many animals with food on the beach as he will back in the sea where he belongs. RIP beautiful creature.

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