What an adventure Phil Davis captures in The Last Salmon. With tribal traditional knowledge as a foundation, Mr. Davis pulls the young reader away from their video game and replaces it with the most engaging story of all—the story of the real world we live in.
It is the world I grew up in—a world in which young people get out of the house and out of the classroom, and aren’t afraid to get wet and maybe even a little dirty as they explore the beauty of Nature that surrounds them.
This is the story of the Chuketna River and the final Chinook Salmon who brave all the perils of salmon life, from hooks and predators to dams and pollution in a desperate effort to complete their ocean journey and return to their stream of origin to keep their species alive. It’s the story of hope reborn in a world of apathy—not just for the salmon, but also for people and all other forms of life that depend on salmon for their survival.
The Last Salmon makes fine use of a teaching technique that is thousands of years old, bringing Nature alive in the imagination of young people through story. It reveals many things about tribal traditions, from the First Salmon Ceremony to the value of traditional celebration, which offer within them many answers to the environmental challenges we all face today.
All young people should read this story, and parents and teachers should read it with them because it truly is a story about them, even as it is a story about you and me. It is a story about stewardship and harmony, and about the messages of the Great Spirit and natural balance. It is a story about the world that sustains us all, and about the stake we have in its future.
The challenges we face today—whether related to a sustainable economy, education or the environment—are challenges we must choose to face together, with hope, knowledge, inspiration and teamwork. The Last Salmon is a great book to help guide our young people along that path—the path that, like Buck and Spring Salmon, will lead them home again.