Indigenous Clam Gardens

Recently while enjoying a latte with my friend Peter, a very knowledgeable ex boater, he asked me if I knew about Clam Gardens. I had no idea what he was talking about. I had heard about the Octopus’s Garden in the shade from the Beatles song, but not Clam Gardens. Please explain. 

Despite the fact that we had boated for more than 30 years with multiple trips throughout the San Juan  Islands, The Gulf Islands, Desolation Sound and the Broughtons, I had never heard of a Clam Garden. It’s very likely that I have seen one or more in Wiatt Bay or Kanish Bay on Quadra Island, where we have anchored, and didn’t realize it. 

It seems that the Coastal First Nations folks created Clam Gardens all over the Coast from Puget Sound to Alaska. The idea was to extend the sand Clam flat further into the water to increase the harvest of this very valuable protein. Clams were great food fresh or dried, and were also good trading items. A valuable product.  So they would gather rocks and build a rock wall further into the water at low tide. Hence a larger Clam bed. Clearly this was a very clever early form of mariculture. 

Archaeologists estimate that these gardens are between 1000-1700 years old. Of course, they were all built long before there were environmental concerns, before there was a Department  Fisheries and Oceans, before the Sierra Club etc. Were one to build one now all manner of studies, planning and permits would be required. 

A fascinating book by Judith Williams on the subject is still available on Amazon.  

If you are out and around looking for Clams you might just find a Clam Garden. 

Just saying…

2 thoughts on “Indigenous Clam Gardens

  1. Terry, The First Nations people used this technique to catch fish also. They still exist but the DFO will not allow the Indigenous peoples to continue this practice! Instead they build fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago using Atlantic salmon and threaten the population of our west coast salmon species.



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