Filming Dillon Creek, more than just a wetland restoration

Lives changed because of the Dillon Creek Wetland Restoration.

Project manager Miranda Cross said, “ This project really initiated a whole new life path where I am now working as a wetland restoration professional.” 

Monitoring Technician Autumn Barret Morgan studied soundscapes before she came to Cortes Island, but it was at Dillon Creek that she “started really diving into the soundscape” – which she has carried on with the Western Screech Owl Monitoring Project.

Beatrix Baxter has been making films for about 15 years, but she was feeling burned out by the time she moved to Cortes Island. The documentary film Replenish: Bringing Back the Dillon Creek Wetland is both a chronicle of the project, and part of a personal transformation.

“I’m pretty choosy about the projects I take on these days. I just really want to choose projects that are going to be quite meaningful to me and to the world,” she explained. 

Beatrix Baxter at the project prior to the wetland restoration – Photo by Roy L Hales
Beatrix Baxter, film-maker [photo: B Baxter]

CC: So what made you choose this film? What’s important about it? I understand there is a connection to the algae blooms in Hague and Gunflint Lakes not too long ago.

BB: “I had made a film with Friends of Cortes Island a few years ago. it was just a short film about the eutrophication that people have been monitoring.  The first bloom was noticed in 2014. We made a film, I think it was in 2017, to try to raise some awareness about this happening. So I’d done this project with FOCI.”

“Then when Miranda wanted to make a film to tell the story of the two year rebuilding of the wetland, she reached out to ask if I would put in a proposal. The project really interested me too, so I did.” 

“It was really great to work with Miranda for the last two years. From the beginning  she was supportive and kind of hands-off. She let me do what I thought was best, which means I get to be really creative and intuitive. I really was drawn to the project because getting to follow a story for two years is pretty special. It meant that I had a lot of time in between shoots  to see how things would unfold and make adjustments along the way,  it also meant things weren’t rushed or on the kind of typical timeframe that you often will find in film industry.”

Autumn Barret Morgan planting at the Dillon Creek Wetland

“Another thing that attracted me to the project was  Miranda’s passion and through her learning about how important wetlands are in the world and how a project like this is rare. She speaks about this a lot. In the province and in the world, we’ve lost 80 to 90% of wetlands.”

“So having one get rebuilt, it’s feels like a drop in the bucket, but the community came together and made it happen. We could do it again in another location. Another community can watch this film and be inspired to do something similar. I could just really see even at the beginning of the project, the kind of impact that this kind of film could have.”

CC: Tell me  a couple of the highlights of making the film. 

BB: “One of my favorite parts of making the film was being on location while construction was happening. It was really, really neat to see the two machines working in tandem. It was  almost like a ballet  to see them swinging around and moving dirt everywhere; All the community members who were out for those days. The energy was really exciting and it just was a really beautiful thing to capture on film. There was just so many interesting things happening.

Machines at Work

“It was definitely a highlight to get to interview Miranda. She’s so knowledgeable about wetlands, so passionate about her work and so articulate.” 

“She was just really a great narrator for the film, but I think the highlight for me definitely was getting to work with Jessie Louie and interview her. Miranda and I got to spend two sessions got to spend two sessions with her. Jessie is a wonderful person and she’s an a really wonderful storyteller. She did such an incredible job of  sharing the impact of what colonization has done in this territory, her territory, and the impacts it’s had on her family and on her culture and language. 

Jessie Louie

“It was really important to Jessie that the language be a part of the wetland project, in all aspects of it.  it’s the language of this territory, of this land, and it’s really, really important for the language to be included in everything that happens here in the territory. So it is featured in the film.

“She shares stories from her life, and her family.  She also teaches words from the wetland, words for animals, words for trees that you can find in wetlands, words for plants that you can find in wetlands.

“It just brought this kind of peacefulness to have a language lesson in the middle of a film about a wetland construction project. It really changed things, I think, for the better.  Anybody watching  can speak with her, practice saying these words, and having these words in their mouths. I’m glad that she really advocated for that because I think it’s probably the most special part of the film.” 

CC: You also developed relationships with some other Klahoose people.

BB: “I’ve been working with jehjeh Media for the past year and a bit. They’re doing incredible work  which I support with graphic design skills and media video skills when possible. It’s just a complete honor and privilege to be part of the team. 

“They are creating tools for people to learn the language: for all the people working with the language to work together and share their curriculum and their resources that have been accumulating over the years. To make tools so that people who want to learn the language can easily access it online in the comfort of their own home, on Instagram and on their phones.

“We did a whole series of  interactive language posters where you can see the words are there and you can practice saying them.  There’s a QR code so you can scan it with your phone and  access a whole beautiful audio lesson in the language. There’s a whole audio component and then the visual component and yet for the learner, it’s very simple and very easy to use. 

“That’s the kind of work we do there and it’s really inspired by the gifts that the elders have given to the community because they’ve hung on to what their teachers shared with them and the language that they preserved and kept safe despite horrific attempts to take the language away.

“In this generation, it’s critical for people to be learning the language and so we’re doing everything we can to make resources available for people to do that.” 

CC: Going back to the Dillon Creek Wetland Restoration Project, what have you learned from it?

BB: “To quote Jessie, In the film  she shares a teaching that her father shared with her, which was it’s okay to take what you need and it’s right to take what you need, but you have to give back and you have to replenish so that there’s something for the next person, or the next animal, and so that the ecosystems can survive and thrive.

“Miranda was reflecting on how that has not been the case in this territory. People have been just taking and taking and taking and not replenishing or giving back. I hope people will take that teaching and to live it. I know I will be for sure, and I hope that this film is a piece of that living.”

CC: So what’s next for Beatrix?

BB: “I will be continuing to work with jehjeh Media and supporting more language revitalization.

“I will be going on a trip to Scotland with my Gaelic singing choir and  I might make a film about that. It’s, again, language revitalization and that’ll be my ancestral territories that I’ll be in for the first time. I’m excited about that, that’s kind of a personal project though. 

“On the island,  Friends Of Cortes Island is always doing  projects  and bringing people together in really interesting ways. I could imagine doing another film with them.”

By the time you read this, Replenish: Bringing Back the Dillon Creek Wetland should be up on the FOCI website.

BB: “When Miranda and I started the project, we really wanted to make a film that was going to celebrate this two years of effort and care that has gone into the work at the Dillon Creek Wetland. We hope it’ll be a gift to the community for people who are involved and for people who want to know what’s up because it is quite an inspiring story.”


[Project and Language Images: selected frames from the Replenish documentary, courtesy of B Baxter.]