Song on the Water
Song On The Water
format: documentary, trailer
People like Al Charles Jr.,
helped not only preserve Coast Salish culture but provide for its economic future. At the young age of 18, Al, along with his community at Lower Elwha, carved the Elwha Klallam’s first giant cedar canoe in many years, and set out on a 1200 mile paddle to Bella Bella, British Columbia and back.
Filmmaker Robert Lundahl’s award-winning 60-minute documentary, Song On The Water, takes viewers along a modern-day voyage with 50 tribal canoes and their crews, to a traditional potlatch—a ceremony among Salish Indians of the Pacific North Coast
Filled with scenes of Coast Salish and Nuu Chah Nulth songs, glowing faces, inspiring stories, and incredibly beautiful cinematography—the one-hour film reveals the profound spirit the voyage instills for pullers, ground crews, and elders. Together they share the waves, traditions, and a vision of a positive future for Coast Salish youth.
Coleen Boyd, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Ball State University
In the 1960s, Washington State forbade Native Americans from fishing in their Traditional areas. Known as the Fish Wars, state police had harassed and sometimes physically beaten tribal fishermen. In 1976, the federal government guaranteed the rights to fish in usual and accustomed grounds.
Despite the ruling, state officials still regularly denied access. Later, in a compromise, the state agreed to allow tribes access to traditional fishing grounds, but only by traditional means—hand-carved ocean-going canoes.
The Long House Association is a Native American non-profit with a mission to educate, communicate and elevate Native culture. The Native American Longhouse Association invited filmmaker Robert Lundahl to participate as Executive Director.
Tribal Journey to Tulalip
Numerous tribal Nations braved the often treacherous open waters, in enormous carved dugout canoes. Arriving from the far tip of Vancouver Island to the Olympic Peninsula, a gathering of Nations congregated at lower Elwha to continue the traditions–”pulling” together as peoples to Tulalip.
A long and arduous journey, pullers must overcome strong currents, large waves, challenging their own physical and mental limits. Learning on their journey together, to read the waves, and listen to the elements. To become better pullers and navigators. To reach their destination, and together find spiritual completion.
A story spreads like wildfire
So moving was this picture, that three months following release, the film had already aired over 240 times, in over 80 cities, on PBS affiliate stations, coast to coast. View the full-length PBS documentary here on YouTube.