These days, I feel that it simply isn't enough to profess good values, hoping that your good intentions will eventually be realized in the real world.
For instance, I'm sure you're just as aware as I am, that we are living in the midst of an unprecedented man-made extinction event, a stunning loss of biodiversity, and that every decision we make on a governmental and cultural level from here on out is crucial.
But what good are these (admittedly admirable) values if we don't act on them? At the end of the day, if we hope to preserve these values and everything they stand for as this tumultuous century rolls on, we need to invest in them — in a real, tangible way.
The following articles illustrate some of the ways Plenty Canada is attempting to manifest our vision on a local and international level, but this is just a sampling of the broad range of work with which we are engaged. I'm very proud to say that our current roster of projects is filled with initiatives of a similar nature. For instance, you might be aware at this point that we will soon be expanding our Healing Garden project in partnership with the Bruce Trail Conservancy and Forests Ontario, therebycreating additional physical, symbolic, and long-lasting legacy spaces for communicating Indigenous cultural and environmental values.
We have also vowed to continue our other biodiversity projects, such as our partnership with the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network, our Indigenous cultural mapping work, our sustainable forestry commitments, and our work educating the public on invasive species. It can be quite hectic sometimes, working on so many different things at once, but it's necessary if we want to truly live up to our mandate.
Not to be too presumptuous, but I hope that you, dear reader, feel that we have lived up to our mandate and that you feel that our organization is worthy of your investment. As a carbon negative organization, we've tried our best to live up to our values in every way possible. I hope that, if you choose to support us with your time or money, you feel that your own values are being respected and reinforced.
Regardless, whether you are a first time reader of this newsletter or a long-time friend of PlentyCanada, I thank you once again for taking some time to give our Contact newsletter a read. I hope you enjoy! And, as the year rolls on, I hope you stick around to see how the projects we've invested in continue to blossom.
Chi Miigwech. Niá:wen. Merci. Thank you.
Plenty Canada is excited to have launched our new ‘Two-Eyed Seeing Bird Atlas’ project, in partnership with Ontario Nature.
There is currently a province-wide breeding bird survey underway for the third Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas (Atlas-3). The Atlas is a collaborative, volunteer-driven five-year effort (2021-2015) to map Ontario’s approximately 300 species of breeding birds. The Atlas is repeated every 20 years to see how bird distributions and populations change over time. You can learn more at birdsontario.org.
The Two-Eyed Seeing Bird Atlas project has a "Community First" approach, supporting Indigenous community initiatives that increase the protection and recovery of birds at risk and culturally significant birds. The project aims to establish collaborative initiatives between Indigenous communities and Atlas-3 participants, help enable Indigenous communities and individuals to participate in Atlas-3, enhance Atlas-3 data collection, and support a learning process to explore how breeding bird surveying protocols and approaches can be adapted to be informed by Indigenous Ways of Knowing.
How can Indigenous communities get involved?
Plenty Canada is committed to conducting this project within the framework of Ethical Space and Two-Eyed Seeing. Communities will determine their interest and level of involvement, including whether they will share data and/or traditional knowledge outside their community. There are many ways that a community can participate in the Two-Eyed Seeing Bird Atlas project:
● Conduct bird surveys on reserve and traditional lands, either jointly with Atlas-3 survey participants or only with community members
● Use knowledge of birds and their songs to survey birds and to gather evidence of bird breeding (all skill levels can be accommodated, training and equipment can be provided!)
●Include bird surveying and recording of Indigenous ecological knowledge in youth programming- providing opportunities to excite youth about birding and conservation, and grow their ecological and traditional knowledge
● Place acoustic recorders to record bird songs and collect them after several weeks
● Participate in efforts to identify the songs of the species recorded by the acoustic recorders
●Host and/or participate in a “learning circle” with knowledge-sharing between traditional Knowledge Keepers, Elders, community members and Atlas-3 participants
● All learning circles will begin and end in ceremony
● Plenty Canada staff will assist in the recording of knowledge, e.g. bird names in Indigenous languages, observed behaviours or changes in particular species, methods of harvesting, preparation and storing significant bird species (recorded and/or shared only with permission)
● Suggest how the atlas surveying protocols and approaches can be adapted to ensure bird research is meaningfully informed by Indigenous Ways of Knowing
● Through discussions via structured learning circles or informal meetings, find out more about the significant birds in the community from Atlas-3 participants (including expert bird researchers)
● Gain more knowledge about the health of harvested birds for consumption
● Utilize previous Atlas data to help inform a nation’s conservation efforts, land use planning, etc.
Plenty Canada will facilitate where needed and when asked, providing connections to the Atlas-3 participants, access to training and equipment, and funding for learning circles, travel and other expenses.
Interested individuals or communities can contact the Indigenous Community Liaisons:
Ontario South - Martina Albert, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ontario North - Sharon Kimberley, email@example.com
– Emily Morris, Martina Albert, Sharon Kimberley
This project was undertaken with the financial support of:
Ce projet a été réalisé avec l'appui financier de:
A new upgrade is coming to the Great Niagara Escarpment Indigenous Cultural Map. Plenty Canada received a generous donation from Canadian Heritage to add ten more destination sites to the Map, Plenty Canada’s multimedia online resource containing stunning photography, captivating video, and contextual information that identifies important Indigenous historic, cultural, and natural world locations along more than 750 kilometres from Niagara Falls to the western region of Manitoulin Island.
The ten destinations being added include the following:
• Boyd Conservation Area
• Cootes Paradise
• Goulding Lake
• Cape Chin
• Summit Bog
• Ball's Falls Conservation Area
• Beamer Memorial
• Red Hill Valley
• Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area
With research conducted by Dr. Jessica Dolan and Mia Yu Zhao Ni, these ten new destination sites will include ethnobotanical research and the location's historical and cultural significance to Indigenous peoples. Each destination pin on the map will also feature beautiful imagery of the locations and photography of the ethnobotany species identified during fieldwork in 2022. Each pin will also have translations available in Kanien’kéha (Mohawk), Michif (Métis), and Anishinaabemowin (Anishinaabek).
Not only will these locations be available on the Great Niagara Escarpment Indigenous Cultural Map, but they will also be presented as destination pins on a new mapping platform being developed by Plenty Canada called the Greenbelt Indigenous Botanical Survey. The Survey will include twenty-three destination pins, including these ten, that are critical to the Indigenous ethnobotanical regions of the Greenbelt and which are significantly connected to historic Indigenous trails.
These ten destinations on the Great Niagara Escarpment Indigenous Cultural Map preview a sampling of the full content that will be uploaded onto the Greenbelt Indigenous Botanical Survey, where visitors will enjoy learning about the Greenbelt's extensive ethnobotanical Indigenous plants and their significant connection to Indigenous communities.
• The ten destination pins will be made public on the Great Niagara Escarpment Indigenous Cultural Map by April 1, 2023.
• The Greenbelt Indigenous Botanical Survey will be available to the public by the end of this year and also be accessible through a link on the Great Niagara Escarpment Indigenous Cultural Map’s menu.
Though the Cultural Map remains in prototype phase, the platform in its current operational form reveals virtually unlimited research, and educational possibilities, as well as applications across a wide swath of Indigenous subject matter related to the Niagara Escarpment.
You can visit the Great Niagara Escarpment Indigenous Cultural Map here:
— Amanda Marie Harwood
As reported in Plenty Canada’s most recent donor letter (and in a few recent newsletter communications), the Tsundzukani Bright Eye's Daycare Center in South Africa has been a tremendous success for both Plenty Canada and its allies in the region. The Center has a undergone a number of crucial improvements, such as the construction of a rainwater storage system and the growing of a vegetable garden, that make the space more friendly to children and more environmentally sustainable.
Of course, Plenty Canada believes that it is important to celebrate the human side of these milestones as well, to highlight the actual people whose lives will be changed by this project. On that note, Plenty Canada would like to take a moment to commemorate the graduation of 31 children from the Daycare Center’s program in December of this past year.
Their date of graduation was marked by a ceremony with the children's parents in attendance, in which all the graduates received a diploma commemorating their time at the Center.
The breadth of their education, and its impact on their future, cannot be overstated, and is best illustrated by this quote from Remember Nyango, founder of the Center:
“Our Tsundzukani Daycare Centre's mission is to prepare academically the children from the deep rural communities of the Mpumalanga province, so that they can go out there and face the modern world of today. This will also include teaching them music, dance and other art forms thus providing them with a sense of cultural identity and pride for their Indigenous traditions.”
As you can see, the Daycare Center is not merely a space to look after the children while their parents are at work -- though it does accomplish that crucial function as well, of course. Not only does the program increase their chances of academic success further down the line, a huge boost to their future economic prospects, but it also provides them with a robust Indigenous cultural education. This cultural education, to Plenty Canada, is just important as every other element of the daycare program. After all, material success is valuable, but restoring and preserving ties to traditional cultures is a core part of the Daycare's, and Plenty Canada's, missions.
If the news of a mass graduation of children has you wondering whether or not the program is beginning to wind down or decrease in scope, rest assured that this could not be further from the truth. During the 2023 school year, the Daycare Center has over 60 children attending classes. That's 60 children whose parents will be able to work, assured that their children are receiving loving care and a great education; 60 children whose childhoods and futures will be enriched through cultural connections and education.
Things are only looking up for the Tsundzukani Bright Eye's Daycare Center. Between Remember Nyango's dedication and Plenty Canada's assistance, it seems like there's almost no limit to the ways in which the Center will grow and evolve in the future.
— Mwana Burmudes and Breton Campbell
Recent visits to community projects in Cuba included horseback treks to mountain homesteads and caserios, where Native families farm in remote areas of the dense eastern Cuban forest. I traveled with colleague Larry McDermott, Plenty Canada executive director and long-time partner in Indigenous international sustainable development.
Freddy Martinez Ramirez has a farm a bit over two hours up the mountain on a horse trail that fords sixteen passes of the serpentine Jojó River. The farms are carved out of patches of more-or-less level land, which yield fields of corn and beans, yuca, pineapple, and other crops. This is farming by the old Taino “coa,” or planting stick, these days also called, “planting by machete.” Baracoa friends dropped us at Veguitas, where Freddy awaited with saddled horses.
This visit in the Oriente easternmost mountains came toward the end of a journey that began in the capital of Havana, traveling east by car and bus, to project farms El Cotorro, a rural municipality of Havana, to Camagüey, and Guantanamo and Baracoa, and near the tip of Cuba at farthermost Cajobabo. We visited four farms out of some fifteen among Gran Familia communities linked in the agricultural network. These days, economic conditions call for substantial attention to food self-sufficiency throughout the country, and the Gran Familia farmers are intent on providing a resounding national model for their effort.
In Camagüey, Finca Yucahu, at the guajiro homestead farm of Ivan Cabrera, a large field is ready for planting with yuca. Young Ivan and his group and their council of elders are striving to produce on a variety of levels. Animal husbandry in pork, goat and cattle, fields of guayaba, aguacate, plantain, and vegetables are in full activity, while construction of thatched, bohio-style ranchones are built to protect animals.
Vladis and Idalis Ramirez, from La Rancheria and Panchito’s son and daughter leaders, who had joined the trip in Havana, helped in ceremony at Finca Yucahu, where all the work was prayed over for good timing and reliability of rains and sun (change in climate — rains — is impacting planting times), and for unity of purpose among Gran Familia homesteads. Vladis follows his father Panchito now as the head farmer at La Rancheria, where large fields of corn, beans and other crops are also the way of life. Older sister Almeida and several younger women run large kitchen gardens and her own kitchen is always full of activity. Brother Inoel, and next generation cousins, Yasmany and Pepino, are also persistent farmers in their fields and with their animal husbandry.
There are several other farms in the network, two more at Cajobabo, a large one coming along in the Tames municipality, two farms of brothers at the Yateras hamlet of Bernardo, and several more in two communities along the Toa River, near Baracoa. Following the cacique’s orientationthere is ample and deeply felt collaboration among these farming families. The strong need of thesmall farmers is for all manner of agricultural materials, instruments and tools, such as machetes, hoes, wire fencing, pumps, irrigation lines, small windmills, and such. The commitment is to self-sufficiency among the Gran Familia and food sovereignty for the country.
As the work and production in the various farms increasingly connect and mutual planning grows, the direction is in cross-country cooperative production of the traditional yuca (manioc) tuber, the central crop of Taino agriculture, which continues in very active, widespread practice among guajiro farmers. The crop, in its many varieties, is highly useful as human and animal food. Its refinement in value-added product is the traditional casabe tort, cooked by masters in “casaberia” ovens. The intent is to form a system of farms with their own casaberias and ovens and elaborating a growing volume of casabe, for the Cuban public and for tourism and external markets.
- Jose Barreiro
The Makwa Inn of the Plenty Canada CampUs is nearing completion during extensive renovations. Regardless of the difficult weather this winter, significant progress has been made on the sustainable building project, both inside and out.
A great deal of care has been given to the Inn’s building envelope with significant upgrades as we look to maintain net zero goals. The Inn’s siding is made of locally sourced white cedar painted in environment friendly “wild sage” linseed oil paint. New high efficiency windows and doors will be installed as well as a new accessible entrance.
Upon entering the Makwa Inn guests will be welcomed to a new community space, including a full kitchen where food sovereignty will be a focus. Sharing of knowledge will take place in the furnished meeting and workshop space. On the second floor the dorm space is being completed with a kitchenette and bathroom for providing accommodations.
At the lower level the Inn will soon have a high efficiency HVAC system installed with superior air cleaning capabilities. Additionally, there is an advanced septic and rainwater harvesting system that are both practical for the operations of the Inn, and key components of the sustainable building demonstration project we are completing.
We look forward to welcoming community groups to learn and assist in co-creating this ethical space. The completion of the project will result in Plenty Canada’s development of a land-based learning centre, while providing a place for Indigenous and western knowledge systems to interact and be shared with mutual respect, kindness, and generosity.
Meegwetch to the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario for providing the funding that has enabled these significant, sustainable renovations to the buildings at Plenty Canada, to proceed.
— Louise Sherwood