Lesson Plan

Freeing the Elwha (Salmon the Life Giving Gift)

A salmon carcass floats in the river.

Photo courtesy of Debbie Preston

Overall Rating

Grade Level:
Sixth Grade-Eighth Grade
American Indian History and Culture, Biology: Animals, Language Arts, Literature, Social Studies, Writing
Two Class Periods
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
Washington State Standards:
Social Studies Component 3.2:
2.4.1, 2.4.5, 3.4.3
EALR 1, EALR 3, 4.1.2


Salmon play a crucial role in the lives of Pacific Northwest Native people. How are salmon truly the “life giving gift’’ to the Elwha River and the Klallam People that live along its banks?


  • Identify the purpose of the Homestead Act;
  • Decide what was needed to move west during the 1800s;
  • Describe the day-to-day life of homesteaders;
  • Explore who moved onto the Olympic peninsula;
  • Develop a time line for events and developments along the Elwha River and Port Angeles, WA.


Students will be given a handout to read which includes an Introduction, an account by a Salmon Priest of the Skagit River, and two legends. Students will examine the two stories for the themes of greed, sacrifice and renewal. They will then investigate the relationship of the Klallam Tribe to the salmon of the Elwha River before the dams were built and after the dams were built. Students will organize information into a chart. Using the information they have gathered from the stories and on their chart, students will use the writing process to compose their own story about how the salmon returned to the Elwha River.


  • Reflection Journal pages (printable handout)
  • Salmon stories (printable handout)
  • Story questions (Printable hanout)
  • Student page (printable handout)
  • Organizational Chart (printable handout)
  • Research materials / Internet Access



Reflection Pages rubric
Story Guides handouts
Final story Rubric

Last updated: February 28, 2015