Clam gardens challenge commonly held perceptions about how Indigenous people use and govern their territories and resources. Specifically, clam gardens show us that coastal peoples were and are resource managers, stewards and engineers of marine ecosystems. This view contrasts with the commonly held beliefs of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries which held that coastal First Nations relied on wild, untended foods. These beliefs shaped the legal systems in Canada responsible for interpreting Aboriginal rights today. Studies that show the number of clam gardens along the coast, and that synthesize local knowledge about their long-standing use and governance, challenge the concepts and approaches upon which contemporary policies are built and can shed light on more just and sustainable alternatives.

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Keith Holmes

Just as in the past, clam gardens today are embedded in complex social-ecological systems. Many Indigenous groups today are drawn to clam gardens because they are part of their traditional connections to the lands and seas, heritage, laws, science, and systems of management. Reconnecting with clam gardens, and the knowledge, history, and governance systems intertwined with them, is for many groups playing a big role in community physical, emotional, and spiritual health, assertions of title and rights, ecological and food restoration, and protecting and honoring the past and the future.

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Keith Holmes

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Keith Holmes