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Home / News / Study finds 1,000 year old clam gardens along the BC coast

Study finds 1,000 year old clam gardens along the BC coast

Clam garden terraceIn their second study to be published in just over a year, a group of Simon Fraser University scientists show that indigenous peoples not only gathered clams, but built clam gardens.

SFU archaeology professor, Dana Lepofsky, says they believe many indigenous peoples around the world had some kind of sophisticated marine management.

But the Pacific Northwest is one of the few places in the world where it can actually be documented because our foreshores are still relatively intact.

She says that studying clam gardens is relevant today because clam shells act against acidification, and clam gardens can scale up and produce large amounts of clams in a small space.

According to her study, indigenous peoples from Washington State to Alaska built clam gardens by rolling rocks to clear out rocky areas and built terrace walls, creating ideal conditions for clams to grow.

Preliminary research shows many of these gardens are over 1,000 years old, and this can have modern implications for First Nations negotiations over access to resources and management.

Clams are important cultural, social and economic, symbols for many coastal First Nations.

The Heiltsuk have a dance called the Clam Dance, and the clam is an important part of the Haida creation myth.

Lepofsky is part of the Clam Garden Network, a group of researchers who work with First Nations; studying their traditions, oral histories and, linguistic data.

About Gene Law

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