Beautiful purple camas flowers will brighten the lower campus of Royal Roads University next spring as a result of the efforts of Grade 6 students from Shoreline Middle School. The students planted the native bulbs March 27 in the specially prepared mounds as part of a new project to experiment with traditional plant management and enhance the supply of camas bulbs for feasting and other cultural events.
The project is coordinated by the Centre for Livelihoods and Ecology, with guidance from Cowichan Tribes member Ken Elliott, an expert in the propagation of native plants and owner of a native plant nursery. The Songhees First Nation is also participating in the project. Vancity Credit Union is a funding partner with a contribution of $5,000.
Camas (Camassia quamash) was a traditionally important staple food of the Coast Salish people, but it’s estimated that only about five per cent of the Garry oak ecosystems that support camas still remain due to urbanization and conversion to agriculture. Currently very few Coast Salish families are able to access and consume camas bulbs. This project will test and refine methods for producing camas in mounds, while engaging youth from local communities in the growing of these important food plants.
The first harvest is expected in the fall of 2014.