Efforts by several Indigenous groups in BC and Washington state to restore, reawaken, and reclaim clam garden technology are well underway as part of a larger movement supporting the reassertion of Indigenous governance, cultural reconnections, food sovereignty, and climate resilience. For example, Hul’q’umi’num’ and W̱SÁNEĆ Coast Salish communities are leading the first experimental restoration of clam gardens in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia with Parks Canada and university researchers (Hul’q’umi’num’- Gulf Islands National Park Reserve Committee 2016; Olsen 2019).

Through a series of ecological surveys of prospective clam beaches and interviews with community members, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community in the southern Salish Sea has assessed and chosen a site for clam garden construction as part of the tribe’s climate change adaptation program. Lastly, many coastal Indigenous communities in BC and Washington have begun their unique community processes and information gathering to begin clam gardens revitalization projects of their own.

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Nicole Smith

Tobin Seagel

Clam garden before restoration

Clam garden after restoration

Clam gardens are important places of learning and sharing. Today, they offer adaptive strategies to increase the health of Indigenous communities in the face of climate change and other environmental changes. Specifically, they create spaces for social-ecological resilience, not just of food, but of entire food systems. Resilient Indigenous food systems are characterized by self-determination through restoration and healing activities, community connections through sharing and relationships, education by way of teachings between Elders and youth, cultural use via stewardship practices, respect and a sense of place, and resource security via seafood quality, access, and safety. Clam gardens, then, play a role in nourishing the body, the spirit, and the community.

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