Pacific Northwest
Marco Hatch, assistant professor of environmental science at Western Washington University, and environmental science junior Celida Moran collect data along the coast of Larrabee State Park in Bellingham on March 21, 2019. (Photo by Dorothy Edwards/Crosscut)

Digging for indigenous science in 3,000-year-old clam beds

Puget Sound, Washington - Marco Hatch, a Coastal Salish scholar, talks about the importance of bringing indigenous knowledge to Western research — and what science loses when we don't.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

I grew up in Yakima, Washington. [But] my great-grandfather purchased a small piece of land on the Hood Canal and had a cabin there many years ago. It probably fell down in the ’60s. We would go there every summer and camp out, so that was my window into the marine world.

My dad's family grew up over in Copalis Crossing, Pacific Beach — north of Ocean Shores and south of Taholah. My grandfather grew up on the beach digging razor clams in that area. We would go out there every year for Easter, which is the first good low tide of the year, and we'd go razor clam digging. My grandfather, as well, was an avid fisher, so through him I got engaged in a lot of that as well.

My family's part of the old school of clam diggers. We have very strong opinions on the type of shovel you're supposed to use and that clam tubes are only for tourists. There are some strong opinions on the right way of doing it.

Leaving Yakima, I was accepted and enrolled in Western Washington University. My first year there, I flunked out of college. I just wasn't really ready to dedicate what it takes to succeed in higher education.

From there, I finished up at Whatcom Community College, and I worked in food service. I managed a reasonably large catering department at a downtown hotel. I worked at the Seattle Yacht Club.

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