Renewing Central Coast Salish Camas (Camassia leichtlinii (Baker) Wats., C. quamash (Pursh) Greene; Liliaceae) Traditions Through Access to Protected Areas: An Ethnoecological Inquiry




Proctor, Katherine Yvonne

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This research examined the potential for protected areas with camas (including tall camas, Camassia leichtlinii (Baker) Wats., and common camas, C. quamash (Pursh) Greene; Liliaceae (Agavaceae)) habitat to support the renewal of Central Coast Salish camas traditions while at the same time maintaining and even expanding their ecological restoration and conservation goals. For many generations Central Coast Salish Peoples of northwestern North America have cultivated camas plants and harvested, processed, and consumed their edible bulbs in large quantities. Today, after camas use has almost completely disappeared from their lives, some Indigenous peoples are working to restore camas habitats and cultivation practices on southern Vancouver Island and neighbouring areas. Tall camas and common camas can still be found growing in many Garry oak ecosystems, which, due to the decreased range and the large proportion of rare species found within them, are frequently the focus of ecological restoration and conservation efforts. I interviewed people from the resource management and First Nations communities to gain an understanding of the current interests, opportunities, challenges, and potential approaches for incorporating traditionally based camas harvesting and management into protected areas today. Protected areas were identified as important areas for teaching traditional plant cultivation techniques to younger generations, and as bulb and seed banks for ethnoecological restoration projects. Overall, managers of protected areas and First Nations participants were receptive to collaborating on management of camas populations. Anticipated or existing challenges or concerns included ecological uncertainties of harvesting disturbance, ensuring safety, finding funding, and gaining trust. I conducted one season of experimental camas harvesting in a Garry oak savannah near Duncan, BC within an ecological preserve and monitored the effects of this harvesting on the extant camas populations, on surrounding plant communities, and on soil porosity. Harvesting of, primarily tall, camas bulbs, at both low and medium intensity, did not affect the weight or abundance of camas bulbs or the quantity, stem height or flowering/fruiting potential of the camas populations in the following year. Harvesting significantly reduced the abundance of Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) and common snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus, but significantly increased the abundance of Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) common cleavers (Galium aparine), hairy cat’s ear (Hypochaeris radicata), and nipplewort (Lapsana communis). Harvesting significantly reduced the level of soil compaction. Using the insights gained from the interviews and experimental harvesting I have proposed an “Ethnoecological Restoration Support Model”. This model explains how protected areas can support cultural restoration both within and outside of protected areas while maintaining and even expanding upon current conservation and restoration goals.



Camas, BC First Nations, Cultural Renewal, Protected Areas, Ethnoecological Restoration, Garry oak ecosystems, Camassia leichtlinii, TEK