Type of Presentation

Oral

Session Title

Strengthening Connections to Place in Changing Times: Clam Garden Knowledge, Research, and Stories

Description

On July 15, 1995, we were imaging the shorelines of the Broughton Archipelago near northern Vancouver Island as part of a coastal habitat survey. What we saw during the low tide survey were many, many stone walls at the low-water line, the likes of which we had never seen before. The walls did not appear to be natural features and we termed the features “clam terraces” (Harper et al 1995). The clam terraces filled nearly every little indentation along the otherwise rocky coast. We saw hundreds of these terraces that day. We hovered over an especially distinct one that we later came to know as Tsaaylagyaxwilh. Later when conversing with the other crew, who had been seeing the same features, I said “I think they are man-made.” “They couldn’t be” said Bill C “there’s too many of them.” Our expectation was that we would find reference to the features in a text book or find an explanation from an archeologist. But in 1995, there was no reference in any text book and no archeologist could provide an explanation. We contacted museums and elders without success. The origin of the features remained elusive. The Tsaaylagyaxwilh photo was set as a fridge magnet and challenged us at the start of each day. We wrote letters. We read every book we could find on the Broughtons and Heart of the Raincoast revealed Billy Proctor as a long-time resident – and a clam digger (Morton and Proctor 1998). In his September 2000 reply to my letter, Billy said “They are called clam gardens. This is what I was told by native elders when I was a child. I have even created my own clam garden” – a memorable day for us. Several years later those well-worn clam garden photos made their way into the hands of hereditary Chief Adam Dick, Kwaxsistalla, who provided the Kwakwala name loxiwey for the clam gardens and traditional knowledge about their construction and use (Deur et al 2015).

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Finding Clam Gardens

2016SSEC

On July 15, 1995, we were imaging the shorelines of the Broughton Archipelago near northern Vancouver Island as part of a coastal habitat survey. What we saw during the low tide survey were many, many stone walls at the low-water line, the likes of which we had never seen before. The walls did not appear to be natural features and we termed the features “clam terraces” (Harper et al 1995). The clam terraces filled nearly every little indentation along the otherwise rocky coast. We saw hundreds of these terraces that day. We hovered over an especially distinct one that we later came to know as Tsaaylagyaxwilh. Later when conversing with the other crew, who had been seeing the same features, I said “I think they are man-made.” “They couldn’t be” said Bill C “there’s too many of them.” Our expectation was that we would find reference to the features in a text book or find an explanation from an archeologist. But in 1995, there was no reference in any text book and no archeologist could provide an explanation. We contacted museums and elders without success. The origin of the features remained elusive. The Tsaaylagyaxwilh photo was set as a fridge magnet and challenged us at the start of each day. We wrote letters. We read every book we could find on the Broughtons and Heart of the Raincoast revealed Billy Proctor as a long-time resident – and a clam digger (Morton and Proctor 1998). In his September 2000 reply to my letter, Billy said “They are called clam gardens. This is what I was told by native elders when I was a child. I have even created my own clam garden” – a memorable day for us. Several years later those well-worn clam garden photos made their way into the hands of hereditary Chief Adam Dick, Kwaxsistalla, who provided the Kwakwala name loxiwey for the clam gardens and traditional knowledge about their construction and use (Deur et al 2015).