The revival of a river people

  • 'UNCONQUERING': Robert Lundahl's video, which takes its title and its cover art from Thomas Aldwell's 1950 autobiography, Conquering the Last Frontier


    Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

    At night the salmon move,

    out from the river and into town,

    They avoid places with names,

    like Fosters Freeze, A&W's, Smileys,

    but swim close to the tract

    homes on Wright Avenue where sometimes

    in the early morning hours

    you can hear them trying doorknobs

    or bumping against Cable TV lines

    We wait up for them.

    We leave our back windows open

    and call out when we hear a splash.

    Mornings are a disappointment.

    - Raymond Carver, Port Angeles, Wash.

    Carver's poem leads into Robert Lundahl's new film, UnConquering the Last Frontier. "Port Angeles," the narrator tells us, "is haunted by its rivers." Using historic photos and new footage, Lundahl's film tells of that haunting, focusing primarily on the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe's connection with the Elwha and its salmon.

    Lundahl's film also portrays the dignity and wisdom of the Lower Elwha Klallam in the face of almost a century of racism and political ill-will. And he shows us how the tribe has taken center stage in the efforts to retain what's left of Elwha salmon stocks. When the stocks return, more than the ecology will be restored*the tribe will have salmon to complete the circle of traditional ceremonial ways.

    "It was moving to watch our elders interviewed in the film, and to hear their stories," says Dennis Sullivan, tribal chair of the Lower Elwha Klallam. "The young kids in our tribe that are growing up today - they'll have this film to look back on, they'll have the video and the storytelling in it. And they'll know where we come from."

    Copies of the film are available in 1 hour-40-minute and 57-minute versions,, 415/543-3155.

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