Kwakwaka’wakw “Clam Gardens”
Motive and Agency in Traditional Northwest Coast Mariculture
The indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast of North America actively managed natural resources in diverse ways to enhance their productivity and proximity. Among those practices that have escaped the attention of anthropologists until recently is the traditional management of intertidal clam beds, which Northwest Coast peoples have enhanced through techniques such as selective harvests, the removal of shells and other debris, and the mechanical aeration of the soil matrix. In some cases, harvesters also removed stones or even created stone revetments that served to laterally expand sediments suitable for clam production into previously unusable portions of the tidal zone. This article presents the only account of these activities, their motivations, and their outcomes, based on the first-hand knowledge of a traditional practitioner, Kwakwaka’wakw Clan Chief Kwaxistalla Adam Dick, trained in these techniques by elders raised in the nineteenth century when clam “gardening” was still widely practiced.