Yakama Nation biologists released thousands of sockeye salmon into a Central Washington lake over the past four summers to restore fish runs that were decimated with the damming of area rivers and streams.
Each fall, the just-released fish swam up the Cle Elum River to spawn and die. Their babies, meanwhile, spent a year in the lake before swimming to the ocean to grow into adulthood.
Now, four years after the first release in 2009, those adult fish are returning to their birthplace to spawn, and tribal members are celebrating what they hope is the resurrection of a revered species to its native habitat.
"You are part of a sacred ceremony to celebrate the return of an important ingredient to our body, our hearts, our life," Yakama elder Russell Jim told the crowd gathered on the shore of Cle Elum Lake. "It does my heart proud what I'm going to see."