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Wheaton Montessori News

Stories of Strangers: Elwha River Restoration
Categories: Adolescent Program / General Knowledge Fund / Going Out

Recently we posted a story about John-Marc Bilezikian  happily crossing paths with Dr. J. Morgan Wells and the importance of seeking out the knowledge and stories of those around us.


Dr. Bilezikian has said that he is “always looking for these people” – the people with a story to share about the smalls ways that they’ve moved the world.


Local Elwha Leader Discusses Tribal History and Elwha River


When Dr. B. traveled to Olympic National Park for the NatureBridge program with the Junior High in 2014, he was able to “mine” the expertise of a local in a similar way.


The Junior High students were doing another water quality analysis test, this time in the Elwha Watershed area.  While the students worked, Dr. Bilezikian noticed a gentleman nearby photographing eagles in the area.  He was an older gentleman with a long braid down his back, very intent upon his purpose.  Dr. Bilezikian approached the man, introduced himself, and asked about his photography work.


The man was a leader of the Elwha tribe and was a wealth of information about the Elwha area, the Elwha River reclamation project, and the tribal history of his people.  As the man and Dr. Bilezikian chatted, the students approached the pair and joined the conversation.  They asked questions about the man’s tribe, the history of the area, and the destruction of the area as a result of the Elwha Dam construction in the last century and the resulting reclamation project.  


The Dam drastically changed the landscape of the Elwha River, as well as the fishing supply for the Elwha tribe.  Their community shrank.  Their lifestyle changed and their history was in danger of being lost.


When asked how he managed to not be angry as a leader of the Elwha tribe by the circumstances, the older man replied, “If we let ourselves get angry, it will poison us.”


Wonderful words of wisdom shared with our adolescent community, just from asking about a photography project.   “If you look for these people, they’re there.  They will all have a story.  They’ve all moved the world a little bit.”  – Dr. B.