September 17th, 2011 marked the beginning of a three-year river restoration project on the Elwha River in Washington State. The main component of the restoration project is the removal of both the Glines Canyon and Elwha dams. The dams, erected almost one hundred years ago, flooded Lower Elwha Klallam tribal sites and depleted the Tribe’s sacred salmon stock.
The Strong People documents both the recovery of the Elwha River and the return of the Klallam Tribe, stressing the relationship between these two entities. The indigenous Klallam have long had their way of life impeded by the dams’ existence. The disruption the dams caused to the river’s salmon runs were not only an economic disaster for the tribe, who relied on the fish for commerce, but also wreaked havoc on the Klallam’s cultural beliefs, of which the salmon are an integral part.
There is controversy and ambiguity surrounding just what should be done to restore a once prolific salmon run: whether the fish should be allowed to return naturally, thereby delaying the Klallam’s hopeful return to prosperity for even longer, or whether salmon should be artificially injected into the environment, which would expedite the salmon’s return, but irrevocably alter the river’s ecosystem in the long run. Both sides are equally compelling without any single clear, even-handed resolution. There is a dense and intriguing layer of environmental and cultural issues at play here, which is why the story is worth telling and why it needed to be captured on camera.
Heather Hoglund, Andrew Grzywacz (Assoc.)
Matthew Lowe (Co.), Heather Hoglund (Co.)
Heather Hoglund (Co.), Matthew Lowe (Co.)
Frank Kelleher, Joseph Holcomb
Mei Mei and Agave is Life