Lower Elwha Klallam tribal member Jonathan Arakawa shared these thoughts just hours before the first tribal fishery on the free-flowing and powerful Elwha River, which had been dammed for more than a century. It was truly a time for celebration.
"As the hours draw closer, it is with immense pride to say tomorrow will be a historic day for the Klallam people. After 11 years, our mighty Elwha River will reopen for a Ceremonial & Subsistence fishery for our tribal membership.
The re-opening is a significant and historic milestone, strengthening our culture, heritage, identity, and sovereignty.
Equally so, a milestone in our river restoration and the recognition of our treaty rights.
The Elwha River is our lifeblood by which has supported our cultural practices, subsistence, and way of life. Although our people faced immense challenges as as early as the 20th century, with dams constructed on our river and severely impacting our lifeway, we witness a free and undammed river!
Today and future generations have many to thank. We honor the memory of our ancestors and elders, who fought a long and grueling battle, to see the dams removed for their grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and descendants. We praise the collaborative efforts between Elwha, environmental advocates, scientists, and government agencies who saw the dam removal through, standing on the shoulders of our ancestors.
The story of our Klallam Sleeping Giants sits in front of my mind – a story carried on by our late uncle Ben Charles, Sr., from our late leader, Grampa Sam, of our Protectors – where the day will come when the salmon will reach the mountainous streams and reawaken our Giants with their spawning. The day is truly near. The healing of our river signifies continued restoration of an interconnectedness between our inherent rights and the revitalization of our language and culture.
Tomorrow and the days to come, we celebrate our heritage, a strengthened community, and furthermore, we recognize the blessing in which this fishery authenticates our existence and makes our social and cultural fabric whole once again.
I am proud to be Klallam, and I am proud to come from a Tribe who has set an example across our state, nation and the world.
The Muckleshoot Messenger is a Tribal publication created by the Muckleshoot Office of Media Services. Tribal community members and Tribal employees are welcome to submit items to the newspaper such as news, calendar items, photos, poems, and artwork.