Judith Williams – “Clam Gardens: Aboriginal Mariculture on Canada’s West Coast”

Judith Williams – “Clam Gardens: Aboriginal Mariculture on Canada’s West Coast”
by Andrew Bryant, 5 May

Judith Williams is an artist, art historian, and Assistant Professor Emeritus at University of British Columbia.  She’s also author of the highly acclaimed “Clam Gardens: Aboriginal Mariculture on Canada’s West Coast“, and recently visited us to speak about that subject.

And what a subject it is.  Beginning with her first visit to Waiatt Bay (Quadra Island), with directions provided by the late Elizabeth Harry (Keekus), Judith first saw, and then slowly began to appreciate, the enormous scope and scale of traditional First Nations mariculture.

The mechanics behind clam gardens are simple, but the ecological understanding behind them is vast.   Simply put, rock walls erected at extreme low tide levels will tend to accumulate sediment above them, creating conditions favorable for species such as Butter and Horse Clams. Cultivate these “fluffy” sediments, move rocks around, leave a path for the canoe – watch the moon and the tides – always remember to replace a “too-small-for-harvest” clam with the syphon (neck) pointed upwards – and watch the moon and the tides.

Do this repeatedly, pass the knowledge down through generations, and you have a predictable, sustainable food production system – that can feed a lot of people – for a very long time.  And it DID.

The “rediscovery” of stone structures used by First Nations peoples to cultivate clams from Puget Sound to Alaska made for a fascinating tale, which continues to unfold and receive wider attention by journalists and scientists alike.   You can learn more about this fascinating story here and here.

Salmon at Sliammon

Salmon at Sliammon
by David Bedry, 10 October 2015.

Ten hardy people braved the miserable weather to see the Sliammon hatchery.

Lee George, the hatchery manager, talked to us about the returning salmon, the harvesting of eggs, rearing the fish and their final release back into the river. We also saw the rebuilt weir over the stream. Besides seeing chum salmon in the water we were treated to a mother bear and her cub.

Lee also talked about community involvement with the hatchery. There is a smoke house the community uses, as well as school groups coming and spending a day at the facility-usually the beginning of November.  Water quality is also a major concern for rearing the salmon.