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I Am the Elwha

Country of Origin

“I am the Elwha, rushing down to the sea. I am the Elwha, wild and free.”

The Elwha River flows 72 kilometres (45 miles) from its source in the Olympic Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the Pacific Northwest. Uniquely, it hosts all six salmon species (Pink, Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, Steelhead, and Chum) as well as several species of trout. 

In 1911 two dams were built on the river. The dams blocked the migration routes of the salmon and dramatically altered the entire river ecosystem for 100 years. In 2012 the dams were decommissioned and the world’s largest dam removal and habitat restoration project began.

In this lyrical and beautifully illustrated book, the author chronicles the history of the Elwha. Narrated by the powerful voices of plants and animals that inhabit the river ecosystem, the dam builder, a worker, and the river itself, this story celebrates the ongoing rewilding of this special environment and offers a welcome to all of the creatures who are coming home.

To learn more visit:  www.elwha.org

"It can be tough for kids and adults to truly comprehend the impact of industrial development on nature because species and ecosystems can’t talk. If they could, what would they say? I Am the Elwha answers this question. About a century ago, the Elwha River in Washington State was blocked by a pair of dams that prevented salmon from spawning and caused populations to crash. In 2012, the first dam was demolished, followed by the second in 2014. The river rushed to the sea and habitat is slowly being restored. In I Am the Elwha, we hear from the river, lake, trees and animals about the impact of the dams and their removal. We also hear from the man who built the dam, the man who operated it, and members of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. In lyrical, rhythmic poetry, all of the players share their perspectives. “My people return, and my creatures and trees,” the river says in celebration. “I rush out to greet them: Welcome my children / welcome home, welcome home!” Colorful illustrations capture the pain of losing one’s home and the joy of having it rightfully returned. I Am the Elwha is a powerful read about a powerful river and those who value and protect it." - Raina Delisle, Hakai Magazine 

Educator Information
At the back of the book are three pages of cultural, scientific, and historical information that discuss the following:

  • the importance and symbolism of salmon to the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and other Coastal Salish Tribes
  • facts about the six species of salmon found in the Elwha River (Chinook, Pink, Chum, Sockeye, Coho, and Steelhead)
  • the history of the Elwha River and its status today

Keywords / Subjects: The Elwha River, Rivers, Dams, History, Environmental Awareness, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Coast Salish, Native American, Culture, Washington, Animals, Salmon, First Salmon Ceremony, Plants, Nature, Settlers, Social Responsibility, Environmental Activism, Poetry.

Recommended for grades 3-5.

Additional Information
32 Pages | 8.5" x 11" | Hardcover

Format: Hardcover
Grade Levels: 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7