Along with the Country Foods Workshop written about in our last newsletter, Plenty Canada has been hard at work over the past year hosting a series of Indigenous language and cultural workshops targeted at people from a wide range of backgrounds. These events have been quite varied in scope, but are united in their concern with reconciliation and respect for the natural world, two topics that are deeply intertwined within this country.
Earlier in the year, on January 9, we held a virtual workshop on traditional methods of transportation, which included a canoe-building workshop with master traditional birch bark canoe builder Chuck Commanda, where participants were able to make their own mini birch bark canoes! (For an account of our first birch bark canoe making workshop from last winter, please see our website blog). We were also joined by Tauni Sheldon and her son Aalpi (Nunavik Inuit) for a presentation on Inuit methods of transportation, and by Tehahenteh Frank Miller (Mohawk, Six Nations of the Grand River) for a discussion of traditional water teachings. Along with this successful update on an old workshop format, we've also crafted a few new workshops that discuss Indigenous culture from a wide variety of approaches.
Hide tanning is a cornerstone of many Indigenous communities across the entire continent, with a surprising number of uses. In order to give just a few of these cultures a chance to tell their own story, on March 14, Plenty invited Larry McDermott (Algonquin, Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation), along with Derek Lee and Kayla Sunday (Mohawks of Akwesasne), and Tauni and Aalpi Sheldon to share their knowledge of various hunting and hide tanning practices. This process was discussed from a multitude of angles; for example, Derek and Kayla talked about the process of fur trapping and preparing furs and hides (the tools used, the history, etc.), while Tauni and Aalpi talked about the modern state of Inuit seal hunting. Given that the entire presentation lasted less than three hours, the presenters were able to get through a dizzying amount of information, exploring the issues surrounding hide tanning with all the seriousness and comprehensiveness they deserve.
A month earlier, on February 2, Kayla Sunday, Gary Pritchard, and Tauni and Aalpi joined us for a panel-type discussion on conservation and natural law; natural law being, as Kayla put it, the unwritten laws that “dictate the actions, reactions, and specific requirements of living in harmony of all creation.” After an introduction from Larry McDermott, the presenters once again moved through a number of topics related to the history and modern state of conservation, including painful topics surrounding the ways that Indigenous perspectives and practices surrounding conservation have been marginalized and silenced over the years. As with the hide tanning workshop, the powerful and varied topics being discussed went over very well with the online audience. Plenty Canada looks forward to hosting similarly exciting seminars throughout the rest of the year.
Even though COVID restrictions have lately been largely lifted, Plenty Canada will continue to value online webinars as a format for some of our workshops. After all, an organization dedicated to social justice shouldn't forget about the unifying and motivating power of digital media in the Internet age. In general, Plenty Canada’s online activities can be thought of as a remedy for the rapid spread of misinformation regarding climate and Indigenous issues that has become commonplace on social media these days. Within a sea of lies and division, Plenty Canada continues to provide a platform for truth and reconciliation.
— Breton Campbell and Emily Morris