There have been a number of articles recently both in local newspapers and the Vancouver Sun about the discovery and subsequent research being conducted on the ancient clam gardens found in the North Vancouver Island area.
Obviously, some local First Nations were aware of their early involvement in mariculture, but this was not widely known. Unfortunately, these articles have made no mention of Judith Williams’ work in unearthing the mystery of these gardens which are only visible at low tide. With the advice and help of local people, she and her husband made many trips by boat to observe these carefully-built terraces that vastly increased the area where clams could be “gardened.” When I spoke to Judith Williams, she said that Elizabeth Harry (Keekus), a Klahoose Elder, told her about the clam gardens. Billy Proctor of Gilford Island also gave her invaluable advice about clam gardens in the Broughton area. What better person to do so as he built one himself over a period of 40 years!
Anyone interested in this fascinating topic should read Judith Williams’ book, Clam Gardens – Aboriginal Mariculture on Canada’s West Coast. It was published in 2006 by New Star Books in Vancouver. As well as being carefully researched, the book is full of interesting photos – both historical and present day photos of the areas she visited. The author has spoken about her book and the research leading up to it on several occasions, including at the Words on the Water Writer’s Festival in Campbell River, some years ago.