Old knowledge has a way of bringing new life to any project.
In the case of the Island’s farming industries, this is true in more ways than one.
The Islands “Youth Warriors” are a group of Nuu-chah-nulth youngsters who, inspired by ancient cultural agriculture traditions, are making waves in this west coast industry.
Beyond bringing new life to the sector through their own energy, they’re creating the foundations for a whole lot of new (and delicious) edible life.
“We were keepers of the land in the past, and we did things like this, and I feel like it’s a forgotten knowledge,” Hughie Watts, Youth Warrior Family executive director, told Ha-Shilth-Sa.
Seafood Gardens are a traditional feat of engineering.
Creating one involves clearing and lining a beach with kilometres of rock walls built to shelter an area from rough waves and allow clams and other shellfish to flourish.
Research shows that once built, they double or even quadruple the production of clams. They also attracted seaweeds, crabs, and sea cucumbers, among many other species.
“Restoring the Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood Gardens project provides food security so we can take care of ourselves and is reinvigorating a tradition we used to do,” said Hayden Seitcher, 22, Tla-o-qui-aht community co-ordinator and Youth Warrior member.
The Youth Warriors have most recently been in Opitsaht in Tla-o-qui-aht territory restoring a clam bed at the bottom of the Big Tree Trail.
“We made a rock wall which helps the spawning of the clams. It kind of contains them in one area…and their whole ecosystem thrives, and they build off of each other,” said Watts
“It helps everything in that little ecosystem. They all thrive.”
This project is just the beginning.
The Youth Warriors have received $80,000 in funding through the Indigenous Food Systems and Agriculture Partnership Program to create, restore, and manage many more of these “seafood gardens.”
They are planning their next project for Huu-ay-aht territory in the next few months.
They will be supported by their Elders, community mentors and external experts to continue this work.
As Hayden Seitcher said, it does more than just ground shellfish. It grounds these kids as well.
“Having the community come together creates the opportunity to connect and create new roots for the youth.”