This looks like it will be a really cool and interesting event out in Sidney and if you, like blog world headquarters, are on the south island you might want to check it out in person. Snacks included! The great news though is you can register for an online webinar if you can’t make it in person. Kudos to Parks (and their new Clam Garden facilitator and friend of this blog, Sarah R.) for setting that up. The full details are in this poster, but the short version is: the time is 6.30 and the location is the Shaw Centre on the Sidney waterfront. If you want a quick primer/links on clam gardens, then keep reading.
I’ve never really done “clam gardens” justice on this blog, but in the course of introducing some speakers I did go over them a little. Since then I’ve had the chance to work with Dana Lepofsky and her team on Quadra Island and wow, I was blown away by those features. Clam gardens are quite variable, but the most typical is a rock wall built at zero tide which acts to trap sediment lessen the steepness of the natural intertidal zone. Many of those Quadra ones are actually built on bedrock, turning very low productivity bedrock shelves into productive clam beds. It seemed like practically the entire shoreline of Waiatt Bay had been terraformed by people. It’s fairly revolutionary to our understanding of Northwest Coast subsistence, in which shellfish have always (ironically, in some ways, considering the size of the middens) been undervalued and under-studied by archaeologists. Part of that salmonopeia, I guess, though there’s probably systemic gender bias involved as well — every NW Coast Archaeologist should read “Shellfish and Gender” by the essential Madonna Moss. There’s some clam garden videos and more information linked here via SFU, and the open-access research paper by Groesbeck et al. from earlier this year if you want to buff up your clam garden knowledge. And, of course, there’s an excellent popular book on the topic, though so much has been learned in the few years since its publication, and the ubiquitous Jude Isabella also has a great piece on them from a couple of years ago. There’s other videos out there, here’s the trailer for one of the best. If you are interested and inclined, you can also follow the Clam Garden Network on twitter.
The upcoming event in Sidney should be great. I’m not describing it as a “talk” since it seems to be more of an “event”. John Harper, one of the first, if not the first, from the science community to recognize clam gardens will be there. The inimitable Nicole Smith, who’s at the hub of current archaeological understanding of clam gardens will also be there. And, Nathan Cardinal who, among his many responsibilities in Gulf Islands National Parks Reserve, takes a particular interest in clam gardens including a project to restore/rebuild one and in that way be able to really monitor how they work. The actual restoration study, which also involved Audrey Dallimore from RRU and others, is more fully described here. It sounds like there may be speakers from local First Nations representatives and/or knowledge holders as well. Not to mention, snacks.
The amount of stone involved in gardens like the one directly above is mindboggling, and is another aspect of the use of stone we often underestimate on the NW Coast. The clam gardens are so interesting archaeologically in their own right, but much like the herring case from this blog a few days ago, the integration of traditional knowledge, historical ecology, restoration and conservation biology, and archaeology is really fruitful for all concerned and has real-world outcomes for environmental health and food security isues.
Here’s the text from the poster:
November 03, 2014, Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre
9811 Seaport Place, Sidney BC
This community evening will be an opportunity to learn about a collaborative project between WSANEC and Hul`qumi`num First Nations and Parks Canada. The guest speakers include WSANEC and Hul`qumi`num elders/knowledge keepers, Dr. John Harper- marine geologist, Nicole Smith- Clam Garden Network, and Nathan Cardinal- Parks Canada. A highlight of the evening will be the release of two short videos about recent trips to the clam garden sites with local First Nations youth. The videos were filmed during activity visits sponsored by Parks Canada, the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s PromoScience Program, and Royal Roads University. This project is an opportunity for Coastal First nations and Parks Canada to learn about eco-cultural landscapes together and how they can be restored. Come enjoy a night of local culture; share an array of traditional food, acquire knowledge, and celebrate the exciting Listening to the Sea, Looking to the Future: Clam Restoration Project!