Tuesday, April 5, 2016

BC First Nations Restore Ancient Seafood Farms

This is an important revelation.  It allows the creation of  many natural communities along the coastline of the North West.  Do note that i envisage a natural community of 150 individuals living in a modern multifamily structure and having facilities to support common activities producing individual and communal wealth and internally guided by the rule of twelve to manage internal credit.

The surrounding country is best managed as an active forest with some growing areas.  Thus having a massive population along the coast will support the continuing development of the forest as well.  This astonishing beach protocol will allow such a population densification where a mile of beach is a huge fishery.

It will be possible to apply similar methods along other beaches world wide.  The North East leaps to mind as an early prospect along with restoration of the local rivers.
BC First Nations restore ancient seafood farms

When the tide rolls out, First Nations elders and youth scramble down the beach to restore ancient seafood farms that helped feed their ancestors for millennia.

The Hul’q’umi’num and Wsanec First Nations are helping rebuild two clam gardens in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, replacing stones in 1,000-year-old low rock walls that are filled with shell hash, sand gravel and boulders to create a beneficial growing environment for edible sea creatures.

The $900,000, five-year Parks Canada project is guided by local elders, many of whom recall maintaining the gardens as youngsters under the direction of their parents and grandparents.

“When we were young we always dug clams and we looked after the beaches,” said Wsanec elder John Elliott. “The beach has to be cultivated like a garden.”

It’s knowledge he is passing on to local children who have come by the hundreds to dig clams and learn about ancient technologies.

“There is a renaissance of interest in First Nations culture as young people try to grab it before it disappears,” said Wsanec elder Earl Claxton Jr. “The kids are amazed that we had this technology to grow food.”

Claxton demonstrates traditional cooking techniques and food preservation, especially dried clams on a stick, which were used as a form of currency in trade with First Nations in the Interior.

The rock walls that define the gardens snake along the bottom of the shoreline, creating a productive terrace.

“You would hardly even notice them, until the tide goes out really far, then you can see the line from quite a ways out,” said Elliott.

The walls also helped direct bottom fish into the shallows where they could be speared.

“My dad used to go down when we were kids and spear some flounders,” he said.

Parks Canada staff and volunteers are working on clam garden restorations on Russell Island as well as Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring Island. They work in the middle of the night when winter tides are low enough to reveal the ancient structures.

The number and scale of seafood farms — a controversial concept when it was introduced — has forced archeologists and anthropologists to reconsider the entire hunter-gatherer narrative of coastal First Nations. Hundreds of clam gardens have been identified from Washington state to Alaska.

SFU archaeologist Dana Lepofsky participates in the ecological survey of clams in clam garden.
“These kinds of features are amazingly widespread,” said Dana Lepofsky, an archeologist at Simon Fraser University. “In some areas of the coast, any place that can have a clam garden does have a clam garden.”

According to her research, managed beaches are up to 300 per cent more productive than natural beaches — modern scientific confirmation of the old First Nations adage, “When the tide goes out, the table is set.”

A cultivated environment grows clams that are much larger than those on natural beaches and helps to contain clam larvae, increasing the population density.

“All of the work that we are doing is being guided by traditional knowledge in our Hul’q’umi’num and Wsanec working groups,” said Skye Augustine, project coordinator for Parks Canada.

Managed beaches were rich sources of many different foods including sea snails, edible kelp, fish, octopus, sea cucumbers and urchins.

“One thing that we continually hear is the importance of restoring these beaches as a food source for First Nations, because these were places where you could get a lot of food,” she said.

Data on productivity and management techniques gleaned from the pilot project will be used to help restore degraded beaches throughout the park reserve.

“It’s partly an ecological experiment, but also to bring elders and youth together on the beaches again.” she said. “There is huge interest in reviving clam gardens as a cultural practice.”

Ancient trash middens contain thick layers of shell, evidence that people were processing large numbers of whelks, cockles and horse clams along with the more common butter clams and littlenecks, said SFU archeologist Nicole Smith.

A clam garden in the Broughton Archipelago.

“The more we learn, the more it seems that clam garden might not be the best term for these features, not just because of what they harvested, but the industrial scale of them,” she said. “Some of these are almost a kilometre long.”

Many clam garden walls appear to have formed as harvesters cleared the beach, moving rock down the beach over long periods of time, while others are carefully constructed from stones carried down from the surrounding landscape, Smith said.

Clam gardens are found in dense clusters on the South Coast, even on beaches that would not ordinarily support shellfish, Smith said. “(On) bedrock beaches where there wouldn’t have been any clam habitat, people would level off eroding bedrock and wall them in to create terraces. It’s really amazing.”

Smith has been working on the Gulf Islands project, bringing First Nations youth to the site to introduce them to science in a way that is culturally relevant to them.

“What’s happening with the elders and the kids there has been magical,” she said.

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