Salmon gather near Elwha Dam to witness ceremony

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PORT ANGELES, Wash. (AP) -- A couple hundred people and several dozen Chinook salmon gathered near the Elwha Dam on Saturday to witness the beginning of the process to set the Elwha River free.

An emotional ceremony was marked by references to the spiritual and cultural importance to the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe of the removal of two dams from the Elwha River near Port Angeles.

The ceremony included drumming, singing, dancing and a blessing by tribal elder Ben Charles Sr., who made several references to tribal ancestors looking down from the clouds and witnessing the event.

The ceremony concluded with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar leading a call, echoed by whoops from the crowd, to have a large piece of earthmoving equipment with a golden bucket break up a piece of concrete just upstream of the dam and carry some pieces to the bank where dignitaries were waiting.