Cockles were consumed by west coast Indigenous Peoples . The Coast Salish, Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth) of Vancouver Island, Haihais, Bella Bella (Hieltsuk), Oowekeeno (Hieltsuk), Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'wakw), Queen Charlotte Straight culture, Tlingit and cultures of Southwest Alaska are reported to have gathered and consumed cockles [2-12]. Cockle remains have been found in Tsimshian middens . Cockles were also known as scallop clams, cockle clams, and hōpise by the Nootka [3, 5, 14].
The people of Port Simpson (Tsimshian), Haida and Tlingit are reported to have collected cockles on a seasonal basis [15-17]. However, some Tlingit and Northern Coast Salish are reported to have collected them throughout the year . The people of Port Simpson collected cockles in months that contained an “r”. In other words they were never collected from May through August .
The Northern Coast Salish had access to cockles at beaches in the Strait of Georgia and the people of Port Simpson collected them from specific locations at Burnt Cliff Island, Finlayson Island, Canoe Pass, South Pass, Georgetown Millsa, Stumaun Bay, Wales Island, Steamer Passage, Winter Harbour, Work Channel, Pearl Harbour and Whiskey Bay [2, 15]. The Haida sometimes picked them up from beaches after a storm .
Cockles were normally harvested by women from pebble and sand beaches as well as mud flats [9, 14, 15, 20]. They were collected at low tides; in winter, a torch was used when searching for cockles at night [2, 9]. Cockle eyes could be spotted fairly easily through the mud or sand. The area next to the eyes was patted with a stick to entice the cockle to bite it so that it could be pulled out . Traditionally, branches and wooden rakes were used .
The Coast Salish and Southwestern Alaskan cultures prepared cockles much like clams and dried them in the same way for storage and trade [10, 12]. The Nootka of Vancouver Island typically ate cockles raw, and Southwestern Alaskans also ate them in this manner when other food supplies were running low [3, 10]. The Coast Salish also used cockles as fishing bait .
West Coast cultures regularly harvested nuttall cockles, also known as basket cockles. The Tlingit saw them as an essential food item [22-24]; in fact, a great number of remains were found in middens along the Northwest coast, including at the Tlingit site Daxatkanada, suggesting that they were consumed a great deal [22, 25].
The Coast Salish called nuttall cockles tliý7em, and the Clayoquot called them huupisi [26, 27]. The Clayoquot named their village, Hupitsit, given the large amounts of huupisi available on nearby beaches . Nuttall cockles may also have been the heart-shaped bivalve reported from early Southeastern Alaskan archeological sites on Traders Island [26, 29]. Nuttall cockles were generally found in large quantities throughout the year on many clam beaches [22, 26, 27]. Tl’étl’iyamay (a small place to get cockles) was a beach well known to Coast Salish for cockles . The Ahousaht benefited from the availability of cockles on beaches near their village and there were also excellent beaches at Hotspring Cove, as well as at Ts’akmiis .
Women picked up nuttall cockles from exposed rocks or dug them up from beaches and mud flats in the intertidal zone during low tide [22, 24, 26, 28]. They lay just below the surface of beaches and could be easily seen by their eyes protruding from the sand, especially when the tide was coming in [26, 28]. A stick was used to tap the surface of the sand just beside the nuttall cockle to encourage them to bite it so that they could be pulled out and shaken off into a collecting basket . The Tlingit collected them by hand as well as with prying or digging sticks while the Coast Salish used hardwood digging sticks [22, 27]. The Manhousat used a special branch that was flat at one end to exhume cockles .
Nuttall cockles were regarded as better raw than cooked because they quickly became tough with cooking [26, 28]. Often, cockles were simply cracked open to extract the meat [24, 27, 28]. The Manhousat never dried cockles and if they were cooked they were removed as soon as the water started to boil . The Coast Salish boiled Nuttall cockles in wooden boxes as well as steamed and dried them . More recently, they were boiled in pots, made into chowder, and fried with sauce [26, 28].
Nuttall cockles have a large foot that was also called a pointer because it continued to move (point) until it was eaten. This foot was used as bait for salmon; cut and frayed to resemble a squid . The Coast Salish used boiled cockles as pacifiers for babies .
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