Clams and Clam Gardens
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Studying Clam Gardens
Although never “lost” to First Nations knowledge keepers, clam gardens have only been relatively recently “discovered” by non-native Northwest Coast scholars who viewed them as either natural rock structures, or structures for another purpose. Dr. John Harper, a geologist, and Judith Williams, an artist, began separate investigations into these rock structures in the early 1990s, but it was not until each of them met with First Nations elders, knowledge keepers, and other long time coastal residents, that the academic’s mystery about these structures was “solved”.
Clam Gardens in Tla’amin Territory
Based on our preliminary study of wuwuthim in Tla’amin territory, we find that The People used two methods to increase the number of clams. First, is the rock wall practice described above and found throughout the coast. The second method seems to be incorporated into stone structures designed also to trap fish. [LINK TO FISH TRAP PAGE]. In these cases, The People seem to be using large holding pools in the fish trap structure as a dual function for clam cultivation. The holding pools used to keep fish for a couple hours, would be cleared of rocks, to open up a sandy bed for clams at a suitable intertidal zone.
Williams, Judith (2006). Clam Gardens: Aboriginal Mariculture on Canada’s West Coast Newstar Books, Vancouver.