Mountain School at Home “ACHOTUS” Ep4: J.D. Ross

We're excited to share a new series of videos based on a Mountain School activity called A Cultural History of the Upper Skagit, or "ACHOTUS." It's a lesson in which students imagine traveling back in time to meet historical figures relevant to the area around the Environmental Learning Center. We teach cultural history so that students have a fuller understanding of human interaction with this landscape and to recognize the variety of ways people from different backgrounds connect to a place like this. We hope students will see themselves in these people and stories and think about the ways that they connect to the places and communities in which they live. The series was created by our instructors Jillian Ross, Imara White, Alexa Brandy and Kari Paustian during the pandemic as a way to reach people at home and support online learning. Watch the full series on YouTube here.

Enjoy the fourth and final episode in our series on the Cultural History of the Upper Skagit Valley in the North Cascades, and get ready to meet a visionary businessman who is an inextricable part of the cultural history story here: The “Father of Seattle City Light,” James Delmage (JD) Ross. His life story intertwined with the North Cascades when he set out to create a series of dams with hydroelectric power-generating stations on the Skagit River beginning in 1917. Throughout JD’s long career, which ultimately included being appointed by FDR to the Securities & Exchange Commission and being appointed as the first administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration, he kept coming back to the Skagit River. JD ended up drastically changing the face of the North Cascades, perhaps more than any other person who ever passed through the area.


Learn more about…

JD Ross:

Seattle City Light and the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project:

Glossary of Terms:

  • Time Immemorial: The very distant past – longer than humans have been able to record time and historical eras, longer than what human memory allows
  • Hydroelectricity: A form of renewable energy that harnesses the power of flowing water to generate electricity
  • Horsepower: A unit of measurement of power; Horsepower is equivalent to 746 Watts or 550 foot-pounds per second. The measurement relates to the number of horses it would take to do the same amount of work. (Why horses? Check out this video!)
  • Dam: A barrier constructed to hold back water and raise its level, forming a reservoir which is often used to generate electricity or as a water supply
  • Powerhouse: A station or plant that generates electricity
  • Public Utility: An organization supplying the community with electricity, gas, water or sewage (Find out more about Seattle City Light’s tradition of public power)

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