On the Elwha, a New Life When the Dam Breaks

A huge dam-removal project will reveal sacred Native American lands that have been flooded for a century

Two antique dams on Washington state's Elwha River are set to be demolished. (Brian Smale)

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They also sang one of the sole surviving Klallam songs, antique recordings of which date from the 1920s. All modern Elwha ceremonies end with its singing.

But this is not a thumping, enthusiastic paddling anthem. The haunting “Klallam Love Song” is about absence, longing and the possibility of return. Young women sang it when their husbands were away. The words are very simple, repeated over and over. “Sweetheart, sweetheart,” the women cried. “You are so very far away; my heart aches for you.”

Abigail Tucker is Smithsonian’s staff writer.

About Abigail Tucker

A frequent contributor to Smithsonian, Abigail Tucker is writing a book about the house cat.

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