Course:CONS370/Projects/The role of clam gardens in the cultural heritage of the Coast Salish peoples of the Gulf Islands archipelago and as a restoration tool adopted by Parks Canada in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, British Columbia, Canada
This case study explores the clam garden restoration project spearheaded by Parks Canada in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve in British Columbia, Canada. It delves into the complexities of land agreements and rights of the indigenous peoples native to the Gulf Islands archipelago: the Hul’qumi’num and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples, existing on federal Crown Land. A main goal of community forestry is to benefit the local people and, specific to this case study, rejuvenate ancient cultural traditions. The clam gardens are promoting the growth of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), the clams, and serving as a shoreline restoration tool by Parks Canada to help reduce erosion all while boosting shoreline biodiversity.
In this case study, Parks Canada action plans and documentation, as well as Coast Salish testimonials are used to showcase the positive exchange of Knowledge towards further reconciliation efforts between the Indigenous Peoples of Canada and the Canadian government.
- 1 Description
- 2 Tenure arrangements
- 3 Administrative arrangements
- 4 Affected Stakeholders
- 5 Interested Outside Stakeholders
- 6 Discussion
- 7 Assessments
- 8 Recommendations
- 9 References
Off the east coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, lie the Gulf Islands, comprised of over 200 islands forming an archipelago. Salt Spring Island and Russell Island are categorized under the Southern Gulf Islands. The Gulf Islands are located within the rain shadow of the Vancouver Island mountains and the Olympic Peninsula, contributing to the Mediterranean climate found there: dry summers, moderate rainfall in the winter, and a high rate of sunshine annually.
According to the BEC system, Salt Spring and Russell Islands’ coastal habitats fall under the CDFmm classification. The precipitation regime is classified as “moist” and the temperature regime is “mild”.
The land of Salt Spring Island and Russell Island is the traditional and ancestral land of the SȾÁUTW̱ (Tsawout) First Nations, one of the five bands that constitute the W̱SÁNEĆ peoples, under the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group.
Salt Spring Island is the largest island part of the Gulf Islands. It is located just northwest of Swartz Bay (see Figure 1). As of 2016, the largest population found on Salt Spring Island were non-Aboriginal individuals over the age of 65. Approximately 4% of individuals reported as having Aboriginal identity (First Nations, Métis, or Inuit). The largest identity represented is Métis (Statistics Canada, 2016). Located on Salt Spring Island is SȾÁUTW̱ Native Reserve.
Russell Island is a small island located in the mouth of Fulford Bay off of Salt Spring Island. There is no ferry service to the island; it is only accessible via kayak or personal watercraft. This island is uninhabited for the majority of the year, however, through the Mahoi Host Program run by Hawaiian-First Nations descendants, there are locals present in the summer months.
Clam gardening in the Northwest Pacific region of Canada has been an ancestral tradition in coastal First Nations communities for generations, promoting collaboration for important meal time traditions. A common saying among communities is “when the tide is out, the table is set.” Clam gardening involves techniques such as selective harvesting and ecological modification of shoreline environments to laterally extend sediments suitable for clam population growth.
With the installation of residential schools from the late 1800s, traditional indigenous practices were halted. Although the clam gardening tradition was never “lost” to Elders, non-indigenous scholars have recently “discovered” the practice for themselves.
The most important element of a clam garden is the boulder wall which creates the ideal habitat for clams. Targeted clam species include butter, littleneck, cockle, and horse clam.
Location of the boulder wall is determined by a variety of factors, but most importantly the beach must be enclosed. Large boulders are rolled down the beach to the lowest tide line. As high tide approaches, it brings along with it sediment that is then trapped by the placement of the boulders. This builds up the shore, in essence elevating the shoreline, to create a shore habitat that is high enough for clam harvest during low tide and low enough to be submerged by water during high tide. The accumulation of coarse, sandy sediment creates a flatter beach at a higher level. Finer clay and silt particles are washed away with the tide. Along with the sand coming in with high tide, there is also gravel and shell hash that is often found in the gardens. These elements help in aerating the sand providing the clams freer movement.
Clam gardens serve as a food source for coastal First Nations communities. As a result of the gardens, the clams are easily accessible for harvest. This is particularly beneficial for the active participation of children to learn language and practices from Elders.
Currently, there are two clam garden restoration sites located on Salt Spring Island in Fulford Harbour and Russell Island. This is a “negotiated, cooperative arrangement” between Parks Canada, a federal organization, and six Coast Salish First Nations. Coast Salish communities with ancestral claim to the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve land collaborate with Parks Canada to restore the clam gardening practice. Furthermore, all parties involved hope to restore coastline habitat for clam species and to prevent against continuous shoreline erosion.
Using a “several small” reserve approach, the federal government established the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve in 2003; its main governing body is Parks Canada. All national park land in Canada is classified as federal Crown land. Since first contact with settlers, the ownership of these lands has been contested. Therefore, as of 2000, national park reserves fall under a simultaneous, non-exclusive ownership by both Indigenous governments and the Crown.
There is no formal agreement drafted between Parks Canada and the Hul’qumi’num communities.
"WSÁNEĆ and Hul’q’umi’num Nations are the leaders of the Clam Garden Restoration Project. While our partners at Royal Roads University, Simon Fraser University and the University of Saskatchewan as well as many volunteers have contributed both time and strength to this project. A special thanks to the Cowichan Valley School District (SD. 79) and the WSÁNEĆ School Board who have made sharing knowledge with Coast Salish youth a top priority. Huy ch q'a, HÍSWḴE and thank you." -- Parks Canada, Clam garden restoration, 2018
Located on the main Parks Canada website, under the “Give thanks” section, the blurb describes the refined approach Parks Canada has established in the restoration project. The language used in this section is to be noted. The WSÁNEĆ and Hul’q’umi’num Nations are referred to as “leaders” of the project and the academia are referred to as “partners.” The involvement of “sharing knowledge” with Coast Salish youth is referred to as a “top priority.” Finally, the closing puts the native languages of the involved First Nations communities first, highlighting the importance of their leadership.
As of recently, the plan to continue and uphold the agreed upon co-management plan between Parks Canada and the Hul’qumi’num is still in effect. The Hul’qumi’num Nations participating are the Cowichan Tribes, Halalt First Nation, Lake Cowichan First Nation, Lyackson First Nation, Penelakut First Nation and Stz’uminus First Nation.
The relationship is a negotiated, two-way, horizontal power distribution. Parks Canada agrees to continue with the restoration project being held to their five guiding requirements. The Hul’qumi’num communities, from the early negotiations, have said that they will continue to value the park’s land, but have stressed the importance of shellfish harvest.
In this discussion it is important to distinguish between de jure and de facto managements. De jure management refers to what parties are legally obligated, in written word, to engage in/with; de facto refers to what is in effect, whether by right or not. Parks Canada has a legal duty to involve First Nations communities. Parks Canada has been conscious of the agreement. Yet, although First Nations communities hold power via ongoing land claims, Parks Canada is operating in a pre-existing power regime and First Nations challenge the legitimacy of that power by calling for the horizontal power distribution, as opposed to vertical. Under federal backing, Parks Canada continues to claim sole right to determine management plans and operational rights within the protected area.
Affected stakeholders are individuals and/or groups who are connected to the land where this project is/will be taking place.
|Affected Stakeholders||Relative Objectives||Power & Interests||Scale of Influence|
|Hul’qumi’num and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples||- An ancestral claim to the land the clam garden restoration is taking place
- A desire to maintain natural, customary rights with the land
- Practice of clam gardening is traditional ecological knowledge of origin to coastal First Nations peoples
|Non-indigenous Salt Spring residents||- Emotional connection to the island (non-ancestral claim)
- Community involvement
Interested outside stakeholders are individuals or groups who are involved and/or interested in the project/land, but are outside of the local or native community.
|Interested Outside Stakeholders||Relative Objectives||Power & Interests||Scale of Influence|
|Parks Canada Agency||- “Protecting and presenting” Canada’s national parks, national historic sites, and heritage areas
- Protecting national interests
- “... to commemorate places, people and events of national historic significance, including Canada’s rich and ongoing aboriginal traditions...”
|Fisheries and Oceans Canada||- Proposal to label 1,400 sq. km stretching from Cordova Bay to Southern Gabriola Island including the Saanich Inlet as “Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area Reserve”
- Continuation of Strait of Georgia and Howe Sound Glass Sponge Reef Conservation Initiative (Saltspring, Pender, Mayne and Saturna Islands and Saanich Peninsula)
- Implement a “no-take” zone which is closed to fishing or other harvesting to allow threatened species to grow to maturity and reproduc
- Protection of British Columbia’s ancient glass sponge reefs ecosystem which provide a habitat for spot prawns, rockfish, herring, halibut and sharks
(e.g. universities involved in research, professors, researchers, etc.)
|- Usage of clam gardens as an avenue for reviving traditional languages and worldviews with knowledge exchange||Low power
The Parks Canada Agency is a federal Level Agency that is guided by federal legislation including the Parks Canada Agency Act and policies such as the Parks Canada Guiding Principles and Operational Policies. The preservation of the clam gardens falls under the five guiding requirements of the Parks Canada Agency Act which mandates: (1) the protection of nationally significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage in national marine conservation areas, (2) to present that heritage through interpretive and education programs for public understanding, (3) to include representative examples of Canada’s land and marine natural regions in the systems of national parks and national marine conservation areas, (4) to commemorate places, peoples and events of national historic significance including Canada’s rich and ongoing aboriginal traditions.
The Gulf Islands region fall under Area 29 jurisdiction under the Pacific Fishery Management Area Regulations 2007. These regulations state that as a division of Canadian Fisheries water that has been classified as a “Fisheries Management Area” the federal government has jurisdiction over all water including portions of any stream that flows into that division and the seaward of mean high water mark near the mouth of that stream.
The Strait of Georgia including the southern Gulf Islands, including Salt Spring Island and Russell Island, fall under the Strait of Georgia and Howe Sound Glass Sponge Reef Conservation Initiative which specifies no commercial, recreational or Indigenous food, Social and Ceremonial Bottom contact fishing activities within the area. this includes but is not limited to prawn, shrimp, crab and groundfish. (Pacific Fishery Management Area Regulations 2007). This area has been labelled as a “Proposed Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area Reserve” which covers 1,400 sq. km stretching from Cordova Bay to Southern Gabriola Island (including the Saanich Inlet.).
The main aim and intention of this community forestry project is to restore traditional, cultural practices of the First Nations communities with ancestral claim to the land comprising of GINPR. Restoration of the clam gardens is being approached via an eco-cultural restoration lens: promoting knowledge exchange and language revitalization.
This analysis reveals that there is success in indigenous community forestry collaboration with federal institutions, even when there are no formal agreements. In Augustine & Dearden, 2014, it is shown that informal agreements are advantageous in co-management initiatives. An informal agreement allows for more flexibility within the arrangement, as community and/or state values and priorities shift. The Clam Garden Restoration Project shows a unique, community-based restoration driven by First Nations values.
The Parks Canada Clam Garden Restoration Program is lead by Skye Augustine (Hwsyun’yun) from the Stz’uminus Nation. Augustine is the appointed Restoration Coordinator. By having a member of one of the Hul’qumi’num communities, appointed as a lead on such a culturally-sensitive and culturally-reliant project helps to support co-management agreements. Both parties are guaranteed involvement. Moreover, the prioritization of utilizing the Hul’qumi’num and SENĆOŦEN traditional languages is highlighted in the original job posting for a Clam Garden Interpreter in GINPR, further support eco-cultural restoration prioritizations.
Furthermore, under Parks Canada intentions, the utilization of clam gardens targets many of their goals under the Parks Canada Agency Act, 1998. Most relevant to this analysis, partnerships between communities and state agencies have been shown to prevent resource collapse and foster incentives for participation in local management. Clams and other shellfish are often associated with Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP). Since shellfish are filter feeders, the intake of water comes with the intake of other elements present in the water; PSP describes the accumulation of toxins from waters in shellfish systems. By creating this Parks Canada site and dedicating its use for the optimization of clam habitat, clams in this area have reduced exposure to toxin accumulation from anthropogenic sources, making them edible for human and animal consumption.
Historically, there has been trouble with patrolling and enforcing restricted access areas in like GINPR, a recent example being the predicaments being encountered while trying to keep local campers and farmers off of protected land in Helliwell Provincial Park on Hornby Island. Parks Canada attempts to establish zoning restriction within their parks, restricting access to certain areas on the basis of cultural and spiritual land for indigenous communities. Yet, it is a cumbersome task to enforce access restrictions, especially if the state does not have the resources provided to them. In a location such as GINPR, the nature of an archipelago creates natural barriers to continuity (Figure 1). Restricting cultural and/or spiritual areas against outside use is important as recreational visitors can take away from First Nations’ use by degradation of the landscape or crowding.
It is important to acknowledge that many First Nations do not consider themselves to be stakeholders, but assert themselves as rights-holders due to the ancestral tie to the land. The practice of clam gardening is the Traditional Ecological Knowledge of origin to the coastal First Nations. In many indigenous groups, including the Coast Salish, knowledge is sacred, hence, the Elders and knowledge-holders hold a special position in the community. There is a necessity of outside stakeholders to recognize this tradition and its importance to indigenous culture.
The Hul’qumi’num and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples have high de jure power and control in the decision-making process regarding the restoration of the clam gardens. In addition, these communities have influence on both the local and regional scales. Locally, in relation to their own land, the Hul’qumi’num and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples are key rights-holders, and, additionally, have regional influence in GINPR as the primary source of contact and consent.
The non-indigenous Salt Spring Island residents have expressed interest in participating with the Clam Garden Restoration Project. Featured in the Summer 2017 edition of The Acorn, the Salt Spring Island Conservancy Newsletter, was an article describing the restoration project and potential community involvement opportunities.
The Conservancy is promoting the non-direct involvement of Salt Spring Island residents with the separate, but related, initiative to protect intertidal ecosystems in the Salish Sea. This is important to note as the project is to rehabilitate indigenous traditions and this is the focus, but the entire population of Salt Spring Island can assist in this and participate in the knowledge exchange necessary to successfully rehabilitate the clam gardens.
The non-indigenous residents of the island have low power in regards to decision-making procedures. however, it can be argued that they have high interest in the local scale. The community on the island is very tight-knit and the desire to contribute to the restoration of what is part of their home too is evident, particularly evident when reviewing the Salt Spring Island Conservancy Newsletter.
As the dominant approaches to natural resource management shift from “command and control” management to more complex view of ecosystem dynamics and social objectives, it is even more important to recognize that natural resource management should be seen as a social endeavor that links human and environmental well being.
These shifting viewpoints are present within the Parks Canada Guiding principles and operational policies which emphasise that the leadership role taken on by Parks Canada to “encompass more than ownership”. Parks Canada expands it to mean “helping and cooperating with others to protect and present heritage”. The policies provide examples of this cooperation approach by describing it to include “providing technical advice and national standards… [while] fostering and advocating heritage protection and presentation.” However, the guiding policies highlight that stewardship of heritage areas is a shared responsibility with increased emphasis on increasing the knowledge and decision making power of Canadian Citizens in Heritage programs. 
These guiding principles support the overall consensus of interviews conducted with Parks Canada participants who support the philosophies and principles outlined by these policies, with participants noting a desire to building a meaningful collaboration with First Nations, with particular desire to build trusting and respectful relationships to cooperatively manage resources in partnership with special consideration of the cultural and traditional ecological knowledge in management decision making.
However, it is critical to note that the Federal Minister guided by the Parks Canada legislation retains full authority over decisions regarding the agency. This prevents the devolution of power. In many ways this is a safeguard of the current existing power system that prevents the delegation of power from the federal government to that of sovereign state at sub-national level which would be a form of administrative decentralization. This is an example of how Western institutions and mechanism compromise the “working” parts of governance models.
These shifting viewpoints are present within the Parks Canada Guiding principles and operational policies which emphasise that the leadership role taken on by Parks Canada is to “encompass more than ownership” and expands it to mean “helping and cooperating with others to protect and present heritage” the policies provides examples of this cooperation approach by describing it to include “providing technical advice and national standards… [while] fostering and advocating heritage protection and presentation.” (Parks Canada Agency & Government of Canada, 2018). However, the guiding policies highlight that stewardship of heritage areas is a shared responsibility with increased emphasis on increasing the knowledge and decision making power of Canadian Citizens in Heritage programs (Government of Canada, Parks Canada Guiding Principles and Operational Policies, 2017).
These guiding principles support the overall consensus of interviews conducted with Parks Canada participants support the philosophies and principles outlined by these policies, with participants noting a desire to building a meaningful collaboration with First Nations, with particular desire to build trusting and respectful relationship to cooperatively manage resources in partnership with special consideration of the cultural and traditional ecological knowledge in management decision making. (Mcintosh 2016)
However, it is critical to note that the Federal Minister guided by the Parks Canada legislation retains full authority over decisions regarding the agency. This prevents the devolution of power. In many ways this is a safeguard of the current existing power system that prevents the delegation of power from the federal government to that of sovereign state at subnational level which would be a form of administrative decentralization. This is an example of how Western institutions and mechanism compromise the “working” parts of governance models.
As a proposal to develop a Marine Conservation site over the land and water comprising the Southern Strait of Georgia gains momentum, it is critical that the Canadian Government adhere to the foundational principles of Marine Conservation Targets which include advancing reconciliation with Indigenous groups. They preface this target by describing respecting treaties in existence and supporting the creation of modern treaties. The creation of “Proposed Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area Reserve” would fulfill the marine conservation targets established under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, which commits Canada to conserving 10 percent of coastal and marine areas. By definition a Marine Protected Area is a “A clearly defined geographical space recognized, dedicated, and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.” Other effective means refer to enhanced protection achieved through non-regulatory mechanisms such as stewardship agreements in areas managed by Aboriginal organizations. The legal protection afforded to a Marine Protected Area through effective means would be a plausible tool for future management.
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