The λ’aayaʕas Project: Revitalizing Traditional Nuu-chah-nulth Root Gardens




Pukonen, Jennifer C.

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The Nuu-chah-nulth and other First Nations of coastal British Columbia used to maintain gardens of indigenous plants with edible roots on their estuarine tidal flats. Tasty and nutritious, these roots were carefully tended and nurtured to enhance their productivity and quality. Within the last century, the Nuu-chah-nulth diet has changed significantly, and these indigenous root vegetables are not as well known. This community-based action research project (The λ’aayaʕas Project) was suggested by members of the Nuu-chah-nulth communities of Clayoquot Sound, as a way of maintaining and strengthening traditional knowledge, cultural identity and ultimately, community health and well-being through renewal of awareness of these and other traditional foods. The λ’aayaʕas project engaged students and community members of all ages in a diverse range of activities aimed at revitalizing the knowledge, skills and cultural practices involved in caring for traditional root gardens. These activities have included: hosting community steam-pit cooking events; learning from knowledgeable community members; re-creating a root garden in the community of Ahousaht; and implementing and observing the results of traditional management techniques on a root garden plot at the Atleo River estuary. This thesis documents the development of this community action research project and examines the role of ecocultural restoration projects in providing opportunities to strengthen and facilitate the connection of youth to their land and culture through experiential learning. Discussions incorporate a summary of feedback and reflections on the project, and of the revitalization of traditional iv knowledge and practices locally, globally and in the future. In closing, I draw together thoughts and ideas from local community members and others who recognize and hope to revitalize the inextricable relationships between cultural and ecological health and diversity.



Nuu-chah-nulth, λ’aayaʕas, traditional root gardens, First Nations, Ahousaht, ethnobotany, ethnoecology, Clayoquot Sound, root vegetables, ecocultural restoration