Echo of Water Against Rocks: Remembering Celilo Falls


It all started when...

I stumbled into a documentary filmmaking class and had to "pitch" a story idea on the spot.

An image that came to mind: Native American fishermen dip-net fishing for salmon in the froth of a massive waterfall.

Images of Celilo Falls are all over the Northwest: on cafe walls, calendars, post cards, even murals.

Growing up in Oregon, my dad had seen the falls in person, and watched the Native fishermen working from their slippery platforms. I grew up in Oregon, too, but never got to see Celilo.

A cultural hub since time immemorial, the falls were flooded in 1957 by a dam.

"What if I drive up the Columbia," I offered, "and meet people who recall the falls first hand, or their children and grandchildren, who inherited the falls through story."

I'd combine interviews with the old photo and home movies, to give voice to what had been silenced.

In the process, I would earn the trust to be welcomed into private homes and Long Houses, participate in sacred ceremonies, and bear witness to deep generational pain.

The only problem: I had never made a documentary before, and I'd have to learn everything as I went.