Eco-Cultural Restoration of Wapato in Katzie Territory
Over 80% of wetlands in Katzie territory have been degraded or lost since the arrival of Europeans 200 years ago. Most of the loss has been due to diking and draining for urban development and agriculture. Primarily due to the loss of wetlands, wapato no longer grows in Katzie territory where it once did. Since 2000, we have been working to restore wapato as a sacred traditional food. We have conducted surveys for wapato along the Alouette and Pitt Rivers, and did not find any wapato patches large enough to support community harvesting. So that people can once again harvest wapato from the land, we are growing it in tanks and planting wapato gardens along the banks of the Pitt River. We are also conducting toxicology testing to ensure that wapato tubers harvested from the river are safe to eat.
GROWING WAPATO IN TANKS
In 2014, we harvested wapato tubers from various locations in the Pitt River and transplanted them to tanks.
With tubers from wapato plants grown in our tanks, we are planting wapato gardens along the banks of the Pitt River.
This is a community event and we consider the involvement of Katzie youth to be of high priority, so that traditions surrounding the cultivation and harvesting of wapato are revived and carried onward by the next generations.
If harvesting in Katzie Territory, please consult with us first at firstname.lastname@example.org
Because wapato tubers tend to absorb toxins from the environment, we are conducting toxicology testing to make sure that tubers harvested from the river are safe to eat. So far, we have tested for 28 organochlorine pesticides, and found that levels in the tubers were below the limits of detection for these pesticides, and well within Canadian guidelines for acceptable levels. Organochlorine pesticides are banned from use these days but were once used heavily on plant crops from the 1940s to 1960s. They were banned because they can persist in the environment for many years, and can bio-accumulate to the point of toxicity in animals and in humans.
Finding no organochlorines in wapato tubers is great news!
But we are not done yet. We plan to test for heavy metals, and until those results are ready, we happily make meals from our tank grown tubers.