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Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Jon Waterhouse

Yukon River Inter-Tidal Watershed Council, Yukon River Water Quality Community Monitoring Program

Jon Waterhouse

Jon Waterhouse’s role as environmental steward was foretold the moment he slid his canoe off the bank of the Yukon River and started paddling. Embarking on a trip that Jon christened The Healing Journey has led him not only down the Yukon River but down rivers in distant parts of North America, South America, Russia, Greenland, Africa and New Zealand. The Healing Journey began with a simple request by the native elders and tribal leaders living in the Yukon River watershed to “go out, take the pulse of the river” and has turned into an on-going worldwide river event created to bring awareness of the importance of environmental stewardship by combining traditional native knowledge with modern science. Though born in France, Jon is Native American. In 1995 he retired from a twenty-year career with the US Navy as a decorated Chief Petty Officer and moved to Alaska. He is the Executive Director of the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council, an international treaty organization comprised of seventy Native Tribes and First Nations, created in 1997 to restore and preserve the health of the Yukon River Watershed. Recently Jon was appointed by President Barack Obama to join a 15-member Joint Public Advisory Committee where he is among representatives from Canada, Mexico and the United States chosen to advise the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC). Jon also serves on the Board of the Alaska-Sudan Medical Project as Community Development Director, assisting in the creation of primary medical care facilities in remote areas of South Sudan.

Jon is passionate about the creation and implementation of environmentally and traditionally sound programs and practices and even more passionate about people who are willing to get out there, put on a pair of gloves and do the work. His life experience has taught him many lessons, lessons one might not think would lead to a life committed to the stewardship of this planet but it is these lessons that have led him to the deep conviction that each and every individual can make a difference in this world. Experiencing at an early age an intense distrust of authority, Jon dropped out of high school, had repeated run-ins with law enforcement and after nearly going to prison, embarked on a lengthy career with the US Military.

While Jon will tell you that his stewardship of the Yukon River was inspired by the wisdom of the elders and the eagerness and innocence of the children that live along its banks, his success in implementing a program to clean up this watershed has much to do with the hands on education that was his life. To date nearly 15 million pounds of trash and pollutants have been removed from the 335,000 square miles of the Yukon Watershed, an accomplishment that has garnered global attention. As a result, The Healing Journey has expanded its scope and is now bringing people continents apart much closer. By combining traditional knowledge, native storytelling and cutting edge science, Jon believes that our shared experiences and concerns enhance the effort to make wise decisions for the future.

In his spare time, Jon and his partner, Mary Marshall, enjoy exploring and photographing the world, connecting with local people and forging lifelong friendships along the way.