Plenty Canada is deeply saddened to announce the passing of Karen Beckwith, our financial coordinator. She served Plenty Canada for over 13 years.
For all that time, Karen had been a fiercely dedicated employee and friend of ours, keeping the financials in order throughout years of miscellaneous projects, grants, renovations, and everything else a non-profit like ours requires to keep going. She was with us from a time of relatively small budgets to a period of fantastic growth, and steadfastly navigated through all the challenges that come with that growth. Throughout it all, Karen always felt like she knew exactly what was going on—she was the first person you could go to if you had questions about anything at all, the truest friend to our organization we could ask for.
Right up to the end, despite her waning health, Karen was committed to Plenty. She did everything in her power to pass on her vast store of knowledge and information to us, especially to her good friend Bonnie Ennis.
Of course, she will also be remembered as a kind and hilarious wife, mother, grandmother and friend. We won't just miss her dedication around the office, of course—we'll miss her razor-sharp wit, her sense of humour, her patience and generosity.
We'll miss her greatly, for all these reasons and more. She was truly irreplaceable. Thank you for everything, Karen.
I realize that, at this point, bringing up the climate crisis is like beating a dead horse. But at the end of the day, I always like to take this opportunity to talk about the issues that are closest to my mind and heart at the moment, and after the summer we've had it'd be impossible not to circle back to this topic.
A devastating heat wave in England, a country so accustomed to mild weather that homes aren't properly insulated and air conditioned to protect from soaring temperatures.
Severe flooding throughout the entirety of Midwestern United States, after St. Louis broke its 1915 record for the most rainfall in a 24-hour span.
Even to the most casual observer, climate change is no longer a theoretical phenomenon—it is a lived reality.
Now, more than ever, we must truly think about what it means to take personal responsibility for this crisis. Yes, I realize that the environmental impact of your average individual pales in comparison to the average corporation (and those corporations should absolutely be held accountable), but our response to climate change should address every level of our existence, both the personal and the political.
I've tried my best over the years to practice what I preach in this regard. I live, and have lived for many decades, on a 500-acre nature preserve, a place where natural resources are constantly recovered (this means that the wood furnace that heats my home only uses sustainable resources). I also have a well for drinking water, generate our electricity with solar panels, and continue to live in a 170-year-old log house.
To me, these are all simply prerequisites for being a climate leader in my community and throughout Canada. I feel that it is my responsibility to use my personal experiences with sustainability to help make Plenty Canada even more carbon negative, and to position our organization as a leader among similar groups.
Almost all of our new programs further these goals, our various food sovereignty projects, our initiatives helping species at risk, the studies we have conducted on the American Eel, etc. They contribute to our overall vision for sustainability: the notion that carbon neutrality and environmental advocacy should be the norm for every organization going into these next few decades—not just NGOs (non-governmental organizations), but for profit-making businesses as well! On the local, national, and international levels we should all pool our knowledge and create new modes of living that prioritize every living being on Earth.
This two-pronged approach, combining personal responsibility with social cooperation, absolutely cannot wait for some arbitrary time in the future. The time to act is now. But you don't need me to tell you that, do you? This summer, the evidence is more undeniable than ever. Let's just hope that the people who continue to deny the worrying effects of climate change finally wake up and join us in our efforts.
Chi Miigwech. Niá:wen. Merci. Thank you.
The New Classroom project at the Tsundzukani Daycare Center is now successfully complete. Ms. Nyango and staff are delighted with their new building and can't wait to have it soon filled with approximately 30 students to attend their classes. This is a great project for the Mashangaan and Bapedi community of Acornoek and the village's elders are very pleased with the development taking place at the Daycare Center where a lot of their children attend their first years of school.
The technical implementation was carried out successfully once more by the Vulavula Construction team as it went smoothly and on schedule despite the out-of-season rain falls this year, which interrupted our work several times. We also brought in two local friends for assisting the construction team with basic labor such as digging foundations, moving of building materials, etc. This is also part of our on-the-job training program through which we offer an opportunity to these local potential artisans to advance their building skills and earn much needed cash. These Mashangaan and Bapedi youngsters, men and women, are starved of opportunities and therefore are highly motivated to work hard and learn more skills. According to the latest official Labor Force Survey in 2022, the unemployment rate is around 32.6 percent. Approximately 55.5 percent (30.3 million people) of the population is living in poverty while a total of 13.8 million people (25 percent) are experiencing food poverty. As of 2021, an individual living in South Africa with less than R 890 Rands per month (roughly) is considered poor. Consumer prices are up 9 percent in June 2022, the largest increase in 40 years and fuel prices rose by 33.2 percent in twelve months.
In conclusion Nyango and all Tsundzukani staff are again very grateful to Plenty Canada and the Canadian donors for the financial and technical assistance provided so far to the Center. Plenty Canada has funded its entire water and sanitation systems, irrigation to its vegetable garden and orchard, the complete upgrade of the Center's kitchen, and now the new classroom. The next important development project of the Center will be the construction of a resource center, and we are currently busy pricing it so that we can provide Plenty Canada with a detailed project proposal.
— Mwana Bermudes
Plenty Canada is currently developing an innovative water and waste management system at its head office location in Lanark, Ontario. We are seeking to incorporate and integrate methods and technologies into the renovation of our “Makwa Inn” multipurpose space that will reduce consumption of potable water, reuse both water and nutrients, as well as release the used water in both a sanitary and ecologically sound way. We are viewing both water and nutrients as part of a cycle that should be cared for and designed to be resilient.
As mentioned in a previous installment of this water and wastewater management series, heavily populated rural areas experience many of the same concerns around nutrification of natural water courses as urban populations do. The minimum standards for home-scale sewage systems such as septic fields or buried trenches do not remove most nutrients from the water we are releasing, and these nutrients end up in our waterways. Cottage country around lakes release large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus into groundwater and when this filters into lakes it creates algae blooms and habitat loss for marine life by starving the water of oxygen. The alternative to septic fields is storing water and having a truck come pump it out.
There are a variety of advanced on-site wastewater treatment products available, such as the Waterloo Biofilter, Ecoflo, and SystemO)) Enviro-Septic which can reduce the footprint of a septic system as well as convert and remove nutrients from our wastes. There are also alternative methods such as constructed wetlands which use the natural processes of wetland plants to absorb contaminants and treat water. All these systems rely on creating aerobic (or oxygen rich) environments that encourage the proliferation of aerobic bacteria which (similar to composting which also relies on aerobic bacteria) convert ammonia to nitrates and starve out harmful bacteria.
There are also new water recycling technologies which reuse greywater (all of a home’s water other than from toilets). Systems such as the Hydraloop and Greyter greywater recycling systems collect and treat water from showers and laundry to be used as water to flush toilets, wash laundry, irrigate gardens, or fill pools. The Hydraloop uses no filters and relies on alternative physical methods and biological processes to treat the water through a series of steps, finally passing through a UV light. The use of one of these systems reduce a home’s water consumption by up to 50% (depending on use) and avoids using potable water to flush our wastes.
Plenty Canada will be incorporating greywater recycling to reduce water demand as well as explore the potential of constructed wetlands or another advanced treatment system to treat the water coming from the “Makwa Inn.”
The combination of rainwater collection, efficient faucets and appliances, greywater recycling and reuse, composting systems, and ecologically sound release of used water into the environment integrate to create a circular system that does not take from the land but in fact creates value to the surrounding environment. Taken as a whole, these methods and technologies create a long lasting and resilient system that works together with natural processes. Resiliency is the ability to adapt and rely on oneself through a changing world.
Plenty Canada is incorporating these technologies to educate the public on issues surround human water use, as well as to create a template or inspiration for other buildings and communities to copy our plans. We will make the plans available to the public and encourage anyone who wishes to incorporate similar technologies to share freely.
— Garrett Johnson
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
It was without intention, in 1976, when Plenty Canada first formed as the Plenty Relief Society to assist Mayan communities in Guatemala following a devastating earthquake, that it would eventually become an Indigenous organization. However, with the benefit of hindsight one can now more perceptively and clearly identify the elements that were taking form and the ideas that influenced and shaped the antecedents leading to what we are today. That we continue to work with our Mayan partners decades later is a testament to our commitment and loyalty to Indigenous peoples.
From that early endeavour the organization went on to develop significant projects in Lesotho centered around potable water supply and community forestry, in Sri Lanka focused on soya protein nutrition and related entrepreneurial development, and in a few locations in the Caribbean, including the Kalinago Territory, previously known as the Carib Reserve of Dominica, on traditional craft artistry. That first engagement in Guatemala combined with our work in Dominica created a palpable resonance that increasingly turned our attention toward the histories, plights, and needs of Indigenous peoples.
Things began to move ahead as an intellectual and conscious responsibility, however, when a brain trust began to coalesce at the organization in the early 1990s. Jose Barreiro, of Taino descent from Cuba, Sam Mercado, a Miskito leader from the Caribbean coast of northeastern Nicaragua, and Tim Johnson, Mohawk from Six Nations of the Grand River, through both serendipity and planning, all converged at Plenty Canada’s headquarters in Lanark around that time. Their presence engendered a wide range of discussions that examined the profound challenges that Indigenous peoples faced, not only abroad, but also within Canada.
This caused our organization to pivot its focus rather efficiently, resulting in the development of a program called the Indigenous Network Conference: Indigenous Non-Government Organizations and Practitioners Involved in International Development, held November 29 and 30, and December 1, 1991. Although it seems like just yesterday, that was nearly 31 years ago.
The conference included several significant thought leaders and professionals involved in Indigenous engagement activities within their communities and around the world. They included Kitigan Zibi Anishinaabek artist and scholar Simon Brascoupé, Ojibwe Elder Art Solomon, CIDA representative Ray Obomsawin, legal and policy specialist Lonny Bomberry, Joanne Barnaby from the Dene Cultural Institute, Joseph Garnet from the Carib Council of Dominica, Garifuna representative Walter Valerio from Belize, and many others.
Underpinning much of the foundation of this work was Seneca scholar John Mohawk, one of the primary authors along with Oren Lyons and Jose Barreiro, of Basic Call to Consciousness: The Haudenosaunee Address to the Western World, a book that provided background information and historical perspective on the struggle for self-determination by Indigenous peoples that suggested a global course correction and the identification of new directions for Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations. It’s very important for our colleagues, partners, and donors to understand that Plenty Canada’s Indigenous emphasis is built upon a strong, and even prescient, intellectual foundation.
For one has to remember that a great deal has transpired over these past three decades since our organization moved in earnest toward what we thought at the time was a truly necessary societal advancement. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples emerged concurrently in 1991. It called for major changes to the relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, but the RCAP report, which provided guidance for Canada’s Indigenous policies and relations, wasn’t released until 1996. The Kelowna Accord was established in 2005. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission launched in 2008, with its report released in 2015. And, although the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted internationally in 2007, Canada did not officially endorse UNDRIP until 2016, a stunning delay of responsibility.
Per our Mission Statement, Plenty Canada is a registered not-for-profit organization that facilitates access to and shares resources with Indigenous peoples and other community groups around the world in support of their environmental protection and sustainable development goals. This mission, along with our majority Indigenous Board of Directors, Indigenous senior management and advisory members, and close Indigenous partners, established upon decades of relationship building and work, constitute the bonafides of this organization.
Based upon these credentials, I welcome your friendship and sincerely appreciate your support.
Chi Miigwech. Niá:wen. Merci. Thank you.
The Niagara Escarpment Biosphere is where biological and cultural diversities should be celebrated and supported. The relationship with land, sky, and waters by peoples who have lived and continue to live in this region is significant for the well-being of all life.
In the fall of 2019, the Niagara Escarpment Transition Leadership Committee was put together to rethink the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere and reengage with partners, including, importantly, Indigenous peoples whose territories host the lands identified by the designation. Through an agreement between the Transition Leadership Committee and Plenty Canada, with support from Environment and Climate Change Canada, work is underway to engage in a process consistent with recommendations from Pathway to Canada Target 1, including the reports One With Nature, Canada’s Conservation Vision, and We Rise Together.
On April 22nd, many gathered on a beautiful, sunny spring day at The Brown Homestead in St. Catharines, Ontario, to witness new grassroots, not-for-profit organization being unveiled and to honour Earth Day and the United Nations Decade of Indigenous Languages. The Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network is now the official entity working on the mandate and designation of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere in consultation with UNESCO.
Full and enthusiastic turnout for the launch of the NIAGARA ESCARPMENT BIOSPHERE NETWORK, which is now the official entity working on the mandate and designation of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere in consultation with UNESCO. We can't say enough about the intelligence, energy, and commitment brought forward by our presenters and participating organizations. Andrew Humeniuk, Executive Director of The Brown Homestead; Liette Vasseur, UNESCO Chair on Community Sustainability at Brock University; Larry McDermott, Executive Director of Plenty Canada; Bradley May, Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network Board Member and Brock University Professor; Lynn Wells, Interim President of Brock University; Sean Kennedy, President of Niagara College Canada; Alyssa General, Kanien'kéha Language Educator; and Walter Sendzik, Mayor of St. Catharines all conveyed good words about working together to sustain the Biosphere. Organizations represented included the City of St. Catharines, Six Nations of the Grand River, Niagara Regional Native Centre, Town of Lincoln, Brock University, Niagara College Canada, Guelph University, Bruce Trail Conservancy, Niagara Parks Commission, Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, Royal Botanical Gardens, Niagara Escarpment for Sustainable Tourism, Trout Unlimited Canada, Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System, The Brown Homestead and Plenty Canada, of course, and many others.
The stage is set for serious engagement across the entire Niagara Escarpment Biosphere over the next several years. Supported by a three-year federal grant from Environment and Climate Change Canada, Plenty Canada, as an Indigenous non-governmental organization, will be partnering, nurturing, and assisting in the development of the emerging Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network. Andrew Humeniuk, executive director of The Brown Homestead, welcomed guests and introduced Tim Johnson, senior advisor to Plenty Canada, who hosted the event.
Tim first introduced Alyssa M. General from Mohawk Nation Turtle Clan, who, as an artist, educator, and language revivalist welcomed guests in Kanien'kéha (Mohawk) language. The next to speak was Liette Vasseur, UNESCO chair on community sustainability at Brock University, and a professor in the department of biological sciences. Vasseur presented the history of the development of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network and spoke to guests about the vital importance of bringing forth a grassroots organization led by the guidance of the Indigenous organization, and connecting organizations and peoples associated with conservation and sharing responsibility for protecting the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere's precious ecosystems. Vasseur also provided information about some of the focus areas the network will concentrate on, including ecotourism and sustainable development.
“She (Alyssa General) said that the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network is a step toward reconciling with the earth.”
The next speaker was Larry McDermott, executive director of Plenty Canada. Larry expressed how the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network has emerged at a crucial time when the world is dealing with biodiversity loss, soil loss, and the impacts of climate change.
Bradley May, adjunct professor with the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre at Brock University, announced the incorporation of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network and named its founding board members, of which he is included.
Next to address the full house was Lynn Wells, interim president and vice-chancellor provost and vice-president academic at Brock University, who expressed the importance of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network to Brock University and its appropriate emergence during this era of Truth and Reconciliation. She stated that Environment and Climate Change Canada supporting an Indigenous organization to conduct this universal work was of benefit to all peoples.
The next presenter, Sean Kennedy, president of Niagara College Canada, was thankful for the opportunity to attend the event, and discussed the significance of this new initiative to the College, including expressing its importance to protecting the natural world.
Walter Sendzik, mayor of St. Catherines, was also present. He spoke about the importance of the partnership, especially as the day was also the launch of the United Nations Decade of Indigenous Languages. Mayor Sendzik expressed his excitement for the new initiative and offered support.
The last speaker for the afternoon was, again, Alyssa M. General. All eyes in the room turned to her as she translated the words she had spoken in Kanien'kéha, the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address, at the beginning of the gathering. Alyssa thanked everyone gathered in the room, then thanked the birds, the trees, the grasses, the flowers, the sun, the air, and so on. She emphasized the importance of Indigenous languages in how they affirmed human connections to all living things. She spoke of language providing emotional connections to the environment, and it being essential for preserving human relations with nature. General concluded that people needed to remember to learn to love nature again, to love the earth’s ecosystems that provide for the people like a mother provides for their children. She said that the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network is a step toward reconciling with the earth.
Tim Johnson concluded the event by thanking everyone for attending and encouraged audience members to stick around, ask questions, and mingle. The day ended with the room buzzing with excitement, with people talking and happily connecting to discuss the outcome of the day's proceedings.
From the southern Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network gathering held at The Brown Homestead in St. Catharines, the next session was held in the north, at Cape Croker Park in Neyaashiinigmiing, Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation, near Wiarton, Ontario on May 12th. Present were environmental staff from the Saugeen Ojibway Nation and other environmental and conservation representatives who were helping to preserve biodiversity in the northern region. The weather was again beautiful, another warm and sunny spring day, perfect for the occasion. Emily Martin, resources and infrastructure manager from the Environment Office of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, opened the session and then introduced Tim to begin the program.
Tim first introduced Victoria Serda, a board member of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network. Victoria discussed the history surrounding the formation of the network. The next speaker was Larry McDermott, talking about networking within the context of the Biosphere to protect and preserve the natural environment for the next seven generations. Next to speak was, Deb Pella Keen, executive director for Maple Leaves Forever, volunteer advisor to Plenty Canada, and former director of the Niagara Escarpment Commission. Deb expressed her views on networking with Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to help raise awareness that the biosphere is at risk, and sharing knowledge that is accessible to Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. She talked about how important it was that the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network allowed grassroots people within communities to take back responsibility to ensure the biosphere's survival; a stepping away from government-led protocols whose priorities were not focused entirely on the Niagara Biosphere. In the new configuration, the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network has a focussed prioritization for conserving the biosphere.
The floor was then opened to questions about the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network. After questions were answered, the group went on a small hike along Cape Croker Park’s natural rocky shoreline, where everyone bonded, communicated and spoke with excitement about the network. Guests looked forward to continuing their communications and strengthening relations.
The Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network continues to make plans to meet communities and organizations interested in collaborating with the network. The organization has also launched a website that can be visited at www.nebnetwork.org.
To read more about the April 22nd launch event, click on the link for NiagaraThisWeek.com to read Paul Forsyth’s cover article “New grassroots Network Unveiled for Niagara Escarpment Biosphere,” which was also published in the St. Catharines Standard and The Toronto Star: https://bit.ly/3LGdxrl.
— Amanda Harwood
Plenty Canada has continued to reintroduce its in-person events to the local community, once again acting as an important hub for Indigenous perspectives and educational initiatives. On April 23rd, for instance, the organization hosted a “Country Foods Workshop” at the Plenty Canada CampUs. For this event, they gathered Indigenous knowledge-holders from a vast array of backgrounds to share information about traditional foods and medicines from their communities. Naturally, all participants were given samples of the food, making the workshop a valuable and informative knowledge-sharing experience as well as a fun food-tasting retreat.
Forty guests attended the workshop, a pleasingly high number given how recently in-person gatherings have been reinstated. It drizzled rain on the day of the event, but everyone was able to stay dry thanks to the large tent set up in Plenty Canada’s yard. When the second building of the CampUs is complete the weather will no longer be a concern. The combination of spoken lectures and communal meals worked perfectly, allowing the three presenters to share their unique cultural perspectives through the delicious food they prepared.
Plenty Canada’s Executive Director Larry McDermott showed up to present along with Sarah Craig, a staff member who has done fantastic work maintaining the organization's outdoor areas during the pandemic. For their shared presentation on Algonquin food, the two of them prepared raw maple syrup as well as wild rice salad and venison.
For an equally unique change of pace, Plenty Canada also invited Trudy Metcalfe-Coe, an award-winning Inuk chef. Having recently worked at the Qajuqturvik Community Food Center, Trudy's work focuses on combining traditional Inuk food with modern cuisine, for wholly unique flavours you can't find anywhere else. For this workshop, she chose to present Muktuk (whale blubber), Caribou tartar, and Arctic char chowder.
Finally, Kayla Sunday from the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne, along with her cousin Karhiiosta and husband Derek, shared some of their favourite recipes and spoke to the attendees from the perspective of a family that gets the majority of their food from subsistence hunting and gathering. The three presenters shared Three Sisters soup (made from white corn, beans, and squash), venison stew, and spicy venison pepperettes.
Overall, all three presentations were “wildly” successful, with the food being savoured and enjoyed by all participants. Plenty Canada facilitators are already thinking about ways to expand upon the event's success. They'd like to create workshops with a similar interactive component, so that the participants can more closely experience the culture being discussed, beyond attending as passive spectators. You can be sure, at least, that the organization will be rolling out frequent in-person events throughout 2022. After all, the Country Foods Workshop was only one of the events connected with a grant Plenty Canada received last year (others included Chuck Commanda's birch bark canoe workshop, as reported in a previous newsletter). Please keep an eye on Plenty Canada’s social media for any announcements of additional programs. Newcomers are always welcome!
— Breton Campbell
Since its beta release in September 2019, The Great Niagara Escarpment Indigenous Cultural Map has emerged as a valuable online reference for information about Indigenous historic, cultural, and ecosystemic sites within and related to the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere. With more sites being continually identified and added each year, ensuring consistency of the map’s content becomes paramount. So too does the need to develop reference points that set the standards for style to provide that information featured at each map destination has the same appearance. When it comes to content, consistency is essential.
The Plenty Canada Style Guide identifies and documents how the organization intends to convey information on the Indigenous Cultural Map and, by extension, throughout its communications platforms. It is a practical and applied resource representing the organization’s commitment to formalizing intentional content. Consistency of grammar, punctuation, usage of terms, and formatting contribute to establishing the quality of content while making communications work for staff members more accessible and efficient. Cultural mapping is a land-based learning concept, and process, intended to identify, describe, and portray tangible and intangible cultural and language resources and assets, including those of distinct populations, within select landscapes.
Within the context of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere, Plenty Canada works with Indigenous peoples who are interested in the Niagara Escarpment to help return Indigenous voice, knowledge, and stories to this 400-million-year-old geologic feature upon which Indigenous peoples have been active for thousands of years. With its network of Indigenous knowledge keepers, Plenty Canada seeks to document, celebrate, and safeguard crucial Indigenous heritage resources on and along the Niagara Escarpment.
This project, funded by Canadian Heritage Indigenous Languages Initiative, has created a holistic set of standards for the Map’s web content to ensure content meets a high level of editorial consistency. This guide serves as a reference source for all information presentation decisions, code standards, and Indigenous language terms used for the platform. This is critical as many researchers and Indigenous cultural experts continue to provide content for the site. It will help Plenty Canada maintain a consistent vision across all content management fields, pages, and components. With many people working on this complex project entering many iterations and changes, everyone must use the same stylistic standards and Indigenous language terms so that the result is cohesive.
Within the Map’s Content Management System are numerous fields into which information is uploaded. Technically, the Indigenous Cultural Map can feature an unlimited number of destinations. However, each field is populated with content as additional destinations are added. Depending on who adds that content, the applied styles may vary widely. This ranges from the usage of terms, punctuation, and spellings of Indigenous locations to summary information and detailed descriptions of identified historic and cultural sites, to photographic captions and video titles, quotes from Indigenous elders and scholars, to lists of reference materials. As a result, the development of this, The Great Niagara Escarpment Indigenous Cultural Map Editorial Style Guide, is essential to ensuring consistency of standards that assist content developers and digital specialists who become responsible for managing the platform. This Style Guide provides guidelines for content presentation, including hundreds of spellings and usage terms involving the languages represented in the Indigenous Cultural Map (English, Kanien’kéha, Anishinaabemowin, and Michif).
— Amanda Harwood