National Geographic Fellow Jon Waterhouse is executive director of the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council, an international treaty organization comprised of seventy native tribes and First Nations. In 2007, a request by the native elders and tribal leaders living in the Yukon River watershed that he "go out and take the pulse of the river" prompted his first “Healing Journey”—a lengthy canoe trip during which Jon collected scientific data while documenting some of the environmental concerns and traditional practices of people living along the Yukon. Jon now oversees the Healing Journey as a worldwide river event that brings people who live continents apart much closer together, fueling his belief that our shared experiences and concerns enhance the effort to make wise decisions for the future.
Some 12 million pounds of trash and pollutants have been removed from the 335,000-square-mile Yukon watershed under Jon's leadership, an accomplishment that has garnered global attention and inspired similar hands-on accomplishments wherever Healing Journeys are held. Each Healing Journey also gathers scientific data on river health and includes a strong cultural component as well, communicating information about changes in the lives of residents along the river and tackling social ills by helping community members forge connections with the natural world and with one another. In 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Jon one of five U.S. citizens on the Joint Public Advisory Committee to the multi-national Commission for Environmental Cooperation.