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A River Ran Wild



This book is the true story of the environmental history of the Nashua River in Massachusetts.  Almost 7000 years ago the Algonquin people discovered the beautiful river valley, along with its abundant natural resources.  They settled along the river which they named the "Nash-a-way" or the "River With a Pebbled Bottom".  The clean sparkling waters provided fish and drinking water.  The Algonquin were able to grow bountiful crops on the rich floodplain, and the forests provided abundant food.  In turn, the Algonquin community respected and revered the river, ensuring they did nothing to damage its pristine waters.

Then one day European settlers arrived in the area and cleared large tracts of land, built sawmills along the river and trapped all of the large animals for their pelts.  The Algonquin people were dismayed by the damage to the river and fought with the Europeans.  Finally, war broke out and the First Nations people were driven away from the land they loved so much.  The river now known as the Nashua became the property of the European settlers.  Even more damage was done to the Nashua with the advent of the industrial revolution.  Dams blocked the river and industrial waste poured into the water.  Sick and dying, the river no longer provided habitat for fish, birds and other animals.

Then one day a First Nations elder had a dream about a river that becomes clean again.  He shares his experience with his friend Marion who had the same vision.  Marion took on the cause and rallied the people, explaining how they could work together to restore the river to its pristine state.  In a testament to community engagement the people succeeded, and the river became clean and bright.  Once again the Nashua can be called "The River With the Pebbled Bottom".

General Assessment

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This book would be inspirational as an introduction to a unit on civic engagement, where students develop actions they can implement to help the environment.  As a companion to action based school projects such as Yellow Fish Road the story clearly demonstrates how even one person can make a difference. 

After reading the book students could research if there are any similar examples of watershed habitat loss in their own communities.  If they find examples, they can identify what could be done on a local level to help conserve freshwater habitat.  The class could intiate civic projects such as letter writing to local politicians to express their concerns.

The story also addresses human rights issues such as the United States Indian Removal Act of 1830 where tens of thousands of First Nations were removed from their land.  Students could learn more about the history of this event and compare it to similar events in Canadian history such as the expulsion of the Acadians.  They could do a project where they write about the impacts of these types of measures on the people and their communities.

This book would also make a great introduction to a social studies project about rivers.  Students can learn more about the main characteristics of a river in their community and examine the relationship between the river and the humans that live along its banks. 

Relevant Grades and Subjects

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a grade listed below.

  • Step 1Select a grade level
  • Grade 3
    • Step 2Relevant matches
    • Aboriginal Studies
    • English
    • Social Studies
  • Grade 4
    • Step 2Relevant matches
    • Aboriginal Studies
    • English
    • Social Studies
  • Grade 5
    • Step 2Relevant matches
    • Aboriginal Studies
    • English
    • Social Studies

Themes Addressed

  • Citizenship (1)

    • Community-Building and Participation
  • Ecosystems (1)

    • Habitat Loss
  • Human Rights (1)

    • Cultural Diversity
  • Indigenous Knowledge (2)

    • Rituals, Spirituality and Worldviews
    • TEK -- Traditional Ecological Knowledge
  • Land Use & Natural Resources (1)

    • Habitat Restoration
  • Water (2)

    • Water Quality
    • Watershed Protection