New Short Film Showcases Middle Fork John Day Restoration

The summer of 2016 was a chaotic one at Oxbow Conservation Area. Excavators, fencing crews, scientists, and Tribal staff all hurried to finish the last phase of the five-year Oxbow Mine Tailings Restoration Project before season’s end. Amid the hustle and bustle, you might have observed something a little different: two women with microphones and film cameras, dodging in and out of the hubbub to get the best shot, or herding someone away from the racket for a quiet interview in a meadow.

The two filmmakers were Michelle Alvarado and Jen Rule, who make up two-thirds of the talented Bend-based company Wahoo Films. Their short film Náimuni: Connecting Oxbow Conservation Area celebrates the completion of one of the biggest river restoration projects ever to take place in the State of Oregon. Along the way, the film explores the history of the upper Middle Fork John Day River, and its journey from damaged dredge-mined ditch to thriving salmon stream via the lengthy restoration process. The theme of connection is woven throughout— as heavy equipment works to reconnect the river to its floodplain, we see how improving salmon habitat will also benefit the myriad other interconnected pieces in the ecosystem. ‘Náimuni’ means ‘connecting’ in Ichishkíin, one of the languages of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, who own the conservation area and led the restoration effort.