WATCH: Parks Canada is working with local First Nations to restore two clam gardens in the Gulf Island Park Reserve. Ceilidh Millar reports.
Along the coast of Vancouver Island is a rich and ancient food network.
Clam gardens are man-made rock walls built by the Coast Salish First Nations which are used to improve the productivity of butter clams.
The clam garden at Russell Island is at least 1,000-years-old.
“They are very important for our shellfish beaches,” Skye Augustine, the Clam Garden Network Project Coordinator of the Gulf Islands Park Reserve said. “Unfortunately they are no longer as healthy as they once were.”
“Unfortunately they are no longer as healthy as they once were.”
For several years, Parks Canada has been working with local First Nations to restore two clam gardens on Russell Island and Fulford Bay on Salt Spring Island.
Parks Canada has deployed their underwater archaeology team this week where they will retrieve small samples of the base wall to determine the depth and age of the gardens.
The structures can only be seen a few times of the year during very low tides.
“The sea level in this particular region has been rising for thousands of years,” Jonathan Moore of the Parks Canada Underwater Archaeology Team said. “That means the earlier parts of the clam gardens walls are actually below water.”
“That means the earlier parts of the clam gardens walls are actually below water.”
Like a farm, the clam gardens need constant care but it’s a fading practice of the Coast Salish people.
“People don’t dig clams no more,” August Sylvester of the Penelakut First Nation said. “We’re like farmers used to be. Go there, dig clams and turn over the soil. The clams can’t live because they ain’t got the clam farmers to turn over the soil.”
“We’re like farmers used to be. Go there, dig clams and turn over the soil. The clams can’t live because they don’t have the clam farmers to turn over the soil.”
Aaron Sam of the Tsawout First Nation was only six-years-old when his father taught him about the clams.
“All the other kids got to go play and I had to work,” Sam said.”Well , called it work but I was learning how to survive on the water.”
Sam hopes not only to revive the clam population but also restore the history of the practice that has sustained their community for centuries.
“Then we can get the kids in summer camps and we can show them how we lived in the olden days.”
They hope to make waves with their findings in the coming months to unearth a past life buried under the sea.