Hakai Magazine


A Wall Worth Building: Making Clam Habitat Great Again

On the Pacific Northwest coast, indigenous groups are reinvigorating the ancient practice of clam gardening.

Authored by

by Jude Isabella and Meigan Henry

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On a small island off Canada’s west coast, a group of people is rebuilding ancient clam gardens.

For thousands of years, indigenous people all along the Pacific Northwest coast have cultivated clams by manipulating beaches to encourage the growth of more and bigger shellfish. These clam gardens supply a reliable and abundant source of nutritious food year round.

Russell Island is part of Canada’s national park system and one of two clam garden restoration sites. Parks Canada, together with the W̱SÁNEĆ and Hul’q’umi’num Nations have undertaken the five-year restoration project. Building a garden looks simple on the surface, but it takes ingenuity, a deep understanding of beach ecology, and patience—building is only possible during super-low tides, giving volunteers a short window of opportunity.