The New Power Couple:Traditional ecological knowledge and western science unite to inform sustainable management of clams


Thursday, February 6, 2020 |  515 West Hastings | 7:00 pm

Moderator: Naomi Krogman, Dean, Faculty of Environment, Simon Fraser University


  • Dana Lepofsky, Professor, Department of Archaeology, SFU
  • Oqwilowgwa Kim Recalma-Clutesi, Member, Qualicum Nation
  • Q̌íx̌itasu Yímazalas Elroy White, Archaeologist and Member, Heiltsuk Nation

Western scientists and Indigenous knowledge keepers are increasingly joining forces to tackle social and environmental problems. These collaborations result not only in a deeper understanding of social-ecological systems, but also produce science that is more respectful to Indigenous Peoples and their long-term, place-based knowledge.  In our presentation, we recount the Kwakwaka’wakw and Heiltsuk First Nation’s stories of “clam gardens” – rock-walled intertidal management features created by coastal First Nations to increase clam production. This technology was nearly forgotten when First Nations children were forced into residential schools alienating them from their traditional practices. The academic rediscovery of this technology springs from the teachings of Kwakwaka’wakw Clan Chief Kwaxsistalla Wathl’thla (Adam Dick).  To avoid being forced into a residential school when he was young, Kwaxsistalla Wathl’thla was hidden at Deep Harbour in the Broughton Archipelago, B.C. – a place encircled by naturally abundant clam beds and human-built clam gardens. In 2002, Kwaxsistalla Wathl’thla shared an ancient lokiwey (clam garden) song that unleashed a wave of research on traditional clam management and led to the establishment of the “Clam Garden Network”.  The Network is a coast wide collective of people interested in documenting traditional mariculture practices and placing this knowledge in current social-ecological contexts.  We share knowledge from First Nations community members, as well as archaeological, ecological and paleoecological research from within the Clam Garden Network.  Together, the blending of these diverse kinds of knowledge demonstrate the long-term, sustainable relationship that coastal First Nations had with clams and clam gardening.  Western scientific research integrated with traditional ecological knowledge can provide lessons about how people today can more respectfully and sustainably interact with our non-human neighbours.

Dana Lepofsky is an award winning professor in SFU’s department of archaeology.  She studies the social and ecological aspects of past human interactions with their land and seascapes, particularly among BC’s coastal First Nations. Her recognition of the value of different disciplines and kinds of knowledge has led her to believe strongly in multi-disciplinary and collaborative research. Her research teams seek to blend local ecological and historical knowledge with archaeological data to understand human-environment interactions and when possible, to apply this knowledge to current social and ecological issues.

Q̌íx̌itasu Yímazalas Elroy White, is a member of the Heiltsuk Nation and owner/operator of Central Coast Archaeology, an independent First Nation company based out of the village of Bella Bella.  He descends from the house of Qaixaitasu from the ancient village of Nulu in Nulawitxv territory.  He is an active member of the Heiltsuk potlatch system, which is integral to the existence of his people and their laws.  His cultural historical knowledge enables him to understand the archaeological record on his terms.  He prides himself as a liaison to diverse groups of people, and organizations.  He is grateful for their interest in the past of his people.  He is also an alumnus of Simon Fraser University.

Oqwilowgwa Kim Recalma-Clutesi is a member of the Qualicum Nation and has spent the last three decades serving on dozens of Aboriginal NGOs, advisory committees and societies where she lends her unique cultural, academic and political perspective. Kim has earned a number of production credits for her work as Associate Producer, Researcher and cultural content supervisor of National Geographic Channel's production, Ancient Sea Gardens: Mystery of the Pacific Northwest; Spirit of Renewal ‘93 & '94 (Coast Salish, Kwagiulth, Nuu-chah-nulth Participants) at the University of Victoria; and Associate Producer for the Opening Ceremonies XV Commonwealth Games: Legend of Kawadillikala in Victoria in 1994. She has gone on to create work for BC's Ministry of Transportation and APTN/Knowledge Network in which she worked to protect integral achaeological sites and explore the legislative oppression of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada. Kim currently works advising the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Child and Family Development, the Commanding Officer of "E' Division of the RCMP and Dr. Philip Cook of the International Institute for Child Rights and Development on traditional mechanisms and ceremonies, which work to strengthen and protect children, families and communities.

SFU Faculty of Environment
SFU Alumni Association
David and Cecilia Ting Endowment Fund, SFU
Ng Ariss Fong, Lawyers

This talk is free and open to the public.  Reservations are recommended as seating is limited.

This talk will be live streamed and also available for view after the event through this link here.


About the 2020 Dean's Lecture Series

To wrap up the celebration of our 10th Anniversary, SFU’s Faculty of Environment is pleased to announce our 2020 Dean’s lecture series:  From Environmental Research to Public Solutions. The series features scholars and practitioners who explore some of the pressing social and ecological challenges we face.  Each talk will share current research and include perspectives from practitioners and community members on applying this knowledge to local collaborations and initiatives to motivate change at individual, organizational and political levels.

Additional talks in the series: