Finding our roots: ethnoecological restoration of lhasem (Fritillaria camschatcensis (L.) Ker-Gawl), an iconic plant food in the Squamish River Estuary, British Columbia.




Joseph, Leigh

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Fritillaria camschatcensis L. Ker Gawl (Liliaceae), is a herbaceous flowering plant that grows in estuarine and subalpine habitats within its range from the northern limit in Alaska to its southern limit in western Oregon. This plant holds cultural significance in the Pacific Northwest as an important root vegetable that was cultivated in estuarine root gardens by many Indigenous Peoples. The bulbs of F. camschatcensis offered an important source of carbohydrates to a traditional diet that was high in protein, fats, oils and fibre. Lhásem is the Squamish name for F. camschatcensis, commonly known as northern riceroot, or chocolate lily. The Squamish Nation is very interested in restoring traditional plant foods into the community along with the traditional knowledge linked to them. Lhásem is a plant that many Squamish people were interested in learning about, thus it was an excellent candidate for ethnoecological restoration. Ethnoecological restoration brings cultural context, practices and technologies together with contemporary ecological restoration approaches and offers culturally relevant ways to restore a plant to the landscape. The east side of the Squamish Estuary, which borders the town of Squamish, has been impacted by a range of human-disturbances over the past century including: draining for agriculture, redirection of the Squamish River, dredging and the presence of industrial sites in close proximity to the estuary. All of these impacts have likely contributed to the decline of lhásem populations on the east side of the estuary. Through an ecological survey of the east and west sides of the Squamish Estuary I determined that the populations of F. camchatcensis are present and thriving on the west bank of the Squamish River. I collected vegetation and abiotic data and found that salinity is the most important abiotic factor affecting lhásem habitat. A logistic regression showed that salinity and the presence of lhásem are negatively correlated. Results of the vegetation data analysis indicated that Maianthemum dilatatum was an indicator for where lhásem is found growing on the west side of the Squamish Estuary and Aster subspicatus was the indicator for lhásem on the east. Lhásem restoration gardens were planted to explore the growth within one growing season across two restoration treatments, terrestrial sites and estuarine sites. The results indicate that terrestrial garden sites were more successful than estuarine garden sites and that whole bulbs were more successful than bulblets in the first year of growth. Through community interviews with elders, adults and youth, I documented the contemporary interests in the restoration of lhásem and found that the major interest of the community was focused on health, traditional food revitalization and knowledge renewal. I facilitated educational events in which Squamish Nation youth and community members learned about the plant and how to manage it in the Squamish Estuary gardens. Overall this research provides information for the future restoration of lhásem in the Squamish Estuary as well as a template to restore other culturally important plants.



Ethnobotany, Ethnoecological Restoration, Squamish First Nations, Botany, Estuary Root Gardens