Posts Tagged ‘canada’

Photo: Moira Donovan.
“Hurricane Fiona carved out sections of coastline,” says the
Monitor, “and caused dunes to disappear on Prince Edward Island, where beaches like this one remained closed weeks later.”

There’s nothing like a new experience to make you see things differently. At the Christian Science Monitor, Moira Donovan reports that the severity of a recent hurricane on Canada’s Prince Edward Island is forcing people “to grapple with how climate change is rewriting people’s relationship with the sea.”

She writes, “Robbie Moore spent a week preparing his oyster farm as Hurricane Fiona barreled toward Prince Edward Island in late September. But that didn’t spare it from the impact.

“On Sept. 24, Fiona roared across Atlantic Canada, leaving catastrophe in its wake, including two deaths. Prince Edward Island recorded 92 mph winds, and on the North Shore, where Mr. Moore’s farm is located, the storm ripped up trees, reduced wharves to splinters, and flooded structures. By the time he could get to his farm to assess the damage several days later, he found some sections had vanished, and this year’s oyster crop had been tossed into the treeline, 30 feet from the high-water mark.

“Still, he counts himself relatively fortunate. Some people lost everything, and as much as people had prepared, there was no way to prepare for the damage Fiona caused. ‘There’s a lot of people very discouraged right now,’ he says.

“The recovery is expected to take years. But given what Fiona has shown about the growing threat posed by hurricanes, the more transformative effect could be still to come. As hurricanes become a more regular, immediate danger up and down North America’s Eastern Seaboard, Atlantic Canada – like regions from the Gulf Coast to Florida to New England – is beginning to grapple with how climate change is rewriting people’s relationship with the sea.

“While Atlantic Canada is no stranger to volatile weather, Fiona marked a departure.

Past storms, such as Hurricane Dorian in 2019, had weakened before they made landfall. But Fiona retained much of its strength, making it the most powerful storm to ever hit Canada.

“University of Prince Edward Island climatologist Adam Fenech says that while Fiona was unprecedented, the storm was not unanticipated, given projections of stronger storms in the Atlantic hurricane season. ‘All the things that we’ve been talking about for 30 years are all coming true,’ he says.

“Despite that consensus, Dr. Fenech has spent years playing Cassandra to an at-times skeptical public. Half a dozen years ago, when Dr. Fenech was invited to give a talk about coastal erosion at a cottage development on Prince Edward Island’s North Shore, he warned that many of the properties could disappear in a big storm. Residents were unconvinced. …

“When Fiona hit, 12 cottages in that development were swept off their footings; several were swallowed wholesale by the ocean. In other places, people’s year-round homes were destroyed.

“But in a region where communities have deep ties to the coast, housing isn’t the only concern. Atlantic Canada is the site of Canada’s most lucrative fisheries, operating out of nearly 200 small harbors dotting the coastline – nearly three-quarters of which were affected by Fiona in some way.

“For many harbors, the destruction caused by Fiona will mean an expensive rebuild. But some people are saying the reconstruction should look different.

“When Fiona hit Newfoundland’s southwest coast, Shawn Bath was a day’s drive away; as the scale of the damage came to light, he loaded his truck, hitched his boat, and headed across the province.

“There, he found … shorelines littered with debris. In many places, wharves and fishing stages had been smashed like toothpicks, scattering fishing gear into the water. Mr. Bath and his crew – who run a marine debris cleanup project called the Clean Harbours Initiative – made their way to a small community called Burnt Islands, and got to work. …

” ‘It’s overwhelming,’ says Mr. Bath. ‘Pictures don’t do it justice.’ And he’s worried that there are more than a thousand fishing nets drifting along the bottom of affected harbors. … In the long term, Mr. Bath says the way harbors are laid out needs to be rethought. Fishing infrastructure has traditionally been placed close to the water because that’s where it made the most sense to be. But that calculus has changed.

“ ‘There’s no point in rebuilding and filling all these stages with nets again, if two years down the road the same thing happens,’ he says. ‘Keeping fishing gear on the water’s edge is no longer a reasonable thing to do.’ …

“For Prince Edward Island musician Tara MacLean, who grew up playing in the dunes, the shock of seeing a beloved landscape suddenly vanish was indescribable. …

“Ms. MacLean says the sorrow for what’s been lost should serve as a wake-up call on the risk that climate change poses to the region. But it’s that emotional connection to the water that could also make changing the relationship to it difficult, and when things return to normal, the allure of living close to the water may return, too.”

More at the Monitor, here. No firewall.

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Photo: Gorupdebesanez.
The singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen.  

I never knew much about poet/composer Leonard Cohen, but after hearing a radio interview with the producer of a new tribute album — and buying the album — I wanted to learn more.

First let me say a few words about an album in which an Iggy Pop version of a Leonard Cohen song is featured alongside songs sung by the likes of Norah Jones, James Taylor, and Mavis Staples. The way Sarah McLachlan’s voice cracks on “It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah” — oh, wow — gets me every time. There’s an uncharacteristically deep register for James Taylor on “Coming Back to You.” And who wouldn’t love the passionate, aging voice of Mavis Staples on “If it Be Your Will”?

“If it be your will
“That I speak no more
“And my voice be still
“As it was before
“I shall speak no more
“I shall abide until
“I am spoken for
“If it be your will”

I just can’t sing enough praise for this album. The instrumental accompaniments, usually led by guitarist Bill Frisell, are themselves worth the price of admission. I would love to know what instrument is making a sound like Bolivian panpipes. Haunting.

Longtime fans of Leonard Cohen may be as in the dark about the meaning of his lyrics as I am, but I’m sure they all know phrases that stun them without their knowing why. The album was produced by Larry Klein for Blue Note. I am still retro enough to have bought a CD, but if you stream any of the songs, please let me know your reactions.

Now for a bit of Wikipedia background on the artist. There’s even a Warhol connection. Who knew?

“Leonard Norman Cohen (September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016) was a Canadian singer-songwriter, poet and novelist. His work explored religion, politics, isolation, depression, sexuality, loss, death, and romantic relationships. …

“Cohen pursued a career as a poet and novelist during the 1950s and early 1960s, and did not begin a music career until 1967. His first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967), was followed by three more albums of folk musicSongs from a Room (1969), Songs of Love and Hate (1971) and New Skin for the Old Ceremony (1974). His 1977 record Death of a Ladies’ Man, co-written and produced by Phil Spector, was a move away from Cohen’s previous minimalist sound. …

“Leonard Norman Cohen was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in Westmount, Quebec, on September 21, 1934. His Lithuanian mother, Marsha (‘Masha’) Klonitsky (1905–1978), emigrated to Canada in 1927 and was the daughter of Talmudic writer and rabbi Solomon Klonitsky-Kline. His paternal grandfather, whose family had moved from Poland to Canada, was Canadian Jewish Congress founding president Lyon Cohen. His parents gave him the Jewish name Eliezer, which means ‘God helps.’ His father, clothing store owner Nathan Bernard Cohen (1891–1944), died when Cohen was nine years old. The family attended Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, to which Cohen retained connections for the rest of his life. On the topic of being a kohen, he said in 1967, ‘I had a very Messianic childhood. I was told I was a descendant of Aaron, the high priest.’ …

“In 1967, disappointed with his lack of success as a writer, Cohen moved to the United States to pursue a career as a folk music singer–songwriter. During the 1960s, he was a fringe figure in Andy Warhol‘s ‘Factory’ crowd. Warhol speculated that Cohen had spent time listening to Nico in clubs and that this had influenced his musical style.

“His song ‘Suzanne‘ became a hit for Judy Collins (who subsequently recorded a number of Cohen’s other songs), and was for many years his most recorded song. Collins recalls that when she first met him, he said he could not sing or play the guitar, nor did he think ‘Suzanne’ was even a song:

‘And then he played me “Suzanne”  … I said, “Leonard, you must come with me to this big fundraiser I’m doing” … Jimi Hendrix was on it. He’d never sung [in front of a large audience] before then. He got out on stage and started singing. Everybody was going crazy—they loved it. And he stopped about halfway through and walked off the stage. Everybody went nuts. … They demanded that he come back. And I demanded; I said, “I’ll go out with you.” So we went out, and we sang it. And of course, that was the beginning.’

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Photo: Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
Stop signs in Cree and Dénesųłiné installed in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, Canada.

Language and culture are important in so many ways, including helping individuals define for themselves and others exactly who they are. I am reminded of the made-up languages my friends and I used in childhood, especially Goose Latin. We were the only ones who understood it, and we liked being special that way.

In Canada, where residential schools once tried to strip indigenous children from their own special language, an effort is being made to give it back.

Chico Harlan and Amanda Coletta wrote about restitution of the Cree language at the Washington Post in July. I got the story via MSN.

“Lucy Johnson never spoke the Cree language when she was growing up. Her father wouldn’t allow it. He called it ‘jungle talk.’ He didn’t elaborate much until he was weeks away from dying of alcoholism. Then he told his children that he associated the language with his experience at Ermineskin residential school. …

“ ‘The more he spoke, the more punishment he received,’ Johnson said.

“It’s a legacy of Ermineskin that Johnson, now 55 and a paralegal, can’t speak the language of her people. Nor can her six siblings. Across Canada, the often brutal residential school system, designed to assimilate Indigenous people into White, European culture, succeeded in breaking the tradition of passing on languages from generation to generation — and put the survival of some in jeopardy.

“But now, 25 years after the last residential school was shuttered, some Indigenous communities [are] reviving and relearning their native languages. It’s a movement fueled by a desire to recover what has been lost, and by a sense that progress is possible. The youngest Cree didn’t attend residential schools. Unlike their parents or grandparents, they didn’t internalize the idea that speaking their language might be wrong.

“Isaiah Swampy Omeasoo, 20, studied and made himself fluent in Cree. His wife is expecting a child in February, he said, and he’ll speak to his son or daughter in the language. …

“In Maskwacîs — an area with four First Nations reserves on the Alberta prairie between Edmonton and Calgary — Cree, the most widely spoken Indigenous language in Canada, can be found written on stop signs, municipal buildings and emergency vehicles. A local radio station has Cree-speaking DJs. The school district says its mission is about ’embedding’ Cree culture and language into education — a direct response to the damage wrought by residential schools.

“But restoring a language isn’t easy. Steve Wood, the vice principal at the high school, said only six of 54 staff members can speak Cree fluently. Many in the community aren’t conversational. Robert Ward Jr., the radio station manager, says he sometimes runs into ideas on air that he can’t express because he lacks the vocabulary. He’ll admit as much on live radio, he says, with the hope that an elder will call in and help him.

“ ‘This is a language that’s been taken from us,’ he said. …

“The United States also ran what were called Indian boarding schools through much of the 19th and 20th centuries. The Interior Department is now investigating abuses in that system. …

“In 2018, the four First Nations in Maskwacîs signed an agreement with the federal government that gave them far greater control over education, allowing them to offer and design a curriculum infused with the Cree language, culture and traditions.

“Brian Wildcat, the superintendent of the Maskwacîs Education Schools Commission, said educators are planning to pilot a new curriculum in the fall with a heavy focus on the Cree language, identity and way of life. He hopes it eventually will replace the district’s current curriculum, which was written by the province. …

“Wood, the vice principal, called restoring the language a ‘monumental effort’ — and one that requires immersion. So he tries to use Cree as much as he can: when ordering a sandwich at the local Subway or filling his car up at the gas station. ‘The language has to be heard for people to pick it up,’ he said.

“It’s with the young people, he said, where he sees progress.

“ ‘We have kids that come home from our kindergarten schools who know more Cree than their parents,’ Wood said. ‘It’s a product of what transpired.’ ”

More at MSN, here.

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Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/CSM Staff
An Indigenous mural fills the front of a building in the North End of Winnipeg, Manitoba, on May 11, 2022.
First Nations in Winnipeg are rethinking their history with the powerful Hudson Bay Company, says the Christian Science Monitor.

It may take a long time, but it’s possible for wrongs to be righted. At least a bit.

Sara Miller Llana reports at the Christian Science Monitor on how the indigenous people of Winnipeg, Canada, are moving toward a new future as they rethink their history with the exploitive Hudson Bay Company and the fur trade.

“After the Hudson’s Bay Co. department store shuttered its hulking, 650,000-plus-square-foot building in downtown Winnipeg in 2020,” she writes, “Peatr Thomas was asked to replicate one of his murals in the empty windows.

“The Inninew and Anishnaabe artist at first hesitated. If any entity casts a colonial shadow in Canada, it is the Hudson’s Bay Co.

“Established in 1670 by the king of England, the HBC existed for centuries as a fur trading enterprise that upended the lives of First Nations as it aggressively expanded into what would later become Canada. Mr. Thomas didn’t want to be affiliated.

“At the same time, the flagship store in Winnipeg looms large — physically and in historical relevance. Mr. Thomas saw an opportunity to share his vision of a ‘new future,’ he says, ‘built on truth.’

“Today his vibrant mural, ‘Aski Pimachi Iwew,’ reflects back the story of the earth’s renewal. Animals painted in black, upon a red background representing dawn, depict the seven ancestor teachings of ‘Turtle Island,’ what many Indigenous people call North America: love, wisdom, respect, courage, honesty, humility, and truth. …

“His mural would be a taste of what’s to come to downtown Winnipeg. Since April, colorful flags and banners have enlivened the building’s drab neoclassical facade, installed by the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO), which represents 34 First Nations groups in southern Manitoba.

“This spring HBC, now a holding company that owns businesses and investments including Saks Fifth Avenue, transferred the building to the SCO. The Indigenous leaders plan to turn it into a multifaceted facility centered around low-income housing for the urban Indigenous community, as well as restaurants, pop-up stores, and space for artists. It will also become the new seat of SCO governance.

“At a time when Canada says that Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples is a driving goal at the highest levels of government, the transfer of a colonial icon to Indigenous leaders resonates with symbolism. …

“ ‘I think it was important for us to let it be known that this is the change that’s coming,’ says Jerry Daniels, the grand chief of the SCO, whose offices are currently based on the industrial outskirts of Winnipeg near the airport. ‘This is what Reconciliation is.’ …

“HBC is Canada’s oldest company. It was chartered in 1670 by King Charles II, after two fur traders convinced him that a base on the shores of the Hudson Bay would provide direct access to the beaver pelts so popular in Europe at the time.

“HBC would come to rule over trapping grounds that represent a third of Canada today. And in its pursuit it would drive settlement across the continent, acting as a de facto government and disrupting communities that had been self-sustaining with their own sophisticated trade networks and diplomatic ties to one another. …

“In an elaborate ceremony, Grand Chief Daniels, in a beaded headdress, transferred two beaver pelts and two elk hides, the traditional ‘rent’ under the original charter, to the governor of HBC, New York business executive Richard Baker.

“Sophia Smoke was invited there as the oral historian. She’s an eloquent 14-year-old from Dakota Plains Wahpeton First Nation in Manitoba. … She addressed the crowd in the Dakota language, which her grandmother taught her, before continuing in English. ‘Today there is no mistaking, we are changing the course of history for good,’ she told the crowd. …

“Today, Winnipeg counts the largest urban Indigenous population in Canada with over 92,000 (in a population of 750,000). It has led to a vibrant Indigenous social and cultural scene that is increasingly present on the cityscape. But the economic reality of Indigenous peoples, dispossessed from their lands, also comes into stark view here.

“According to the latest census figures, 31% of Indigenous people in Winnipeg live below the low-income threshold, compared with 13% of the non-Indigenous population. Homelessness is a major problem for the city, and 66% of those in emergency shelters, transitional housing, and safe spaces identify as Indigenous. Child poverty is the highest of any province. …

“Mr. Daniels, from Long Plain First Nation, says he experienced much turbulence growing up, part of the child welfare system for a while. He says providing stable housing will have a ripple effect on the community that’s suffered poverty and intergenerational trauma, especially from the residential schooling system.

“ ‘Families are built on the stability of their grandparents and their great-grandparents who were able to provide the knowledge and the love and support to engage in different areas,’ he says. ‘We didn’t have that opportunity.’ …

“Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn is meant to be a vibrant hub, with two restaurants and community space. It will showcase Indigenous art and culture and include a museum that tells the role that Indigenous people played in the founding of HBC from their perspective.

“The building reinforces a transformation already underway in Winnipeg. There is Qaumajuq, billed as the largest Inuit art center in the world, that opened last year. There is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which dedicates a significant portion of its permanent display to the truth about Canada’s violent assimilationist policies. Indigenous murals, sculpture, and gardens color the cityscape. …

“The new project could become a model for other Canadian cities and landmarks, says Lloyd Axworthy, a former Canadian foreign minister and former president of the University of Winnipeg who is an adviser on this project. … ‘This project dispels the idea of Native people being dependent on welfare and all those kinds of stereotypes. No, they are entrepreneurs, they are activists doing important things, and they can manage a big project.’

“Stephen Bown, author of the book The Company, which tells the story of the first 200 years of HBC, says the Winnipeg project in some ways takes history full circle. ‘The amount of Indigenous involvement in that business often goes unrecognized,’ he says.

“While run from London, HBC on the ground depended on the knowledge, savvy, and goodwill of the Indigenous inhabitants. ‘That began right from the very, very beginning. … The symbolic significance could be that the company is returning maybe in one sense to its roots as an Indigenous-run thing.’ ”

More at the Monitor, here. No firewall.

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Art: Maud Lewis via Artnet.
The Maud Lewis painting “Black Truck” was once traded for grilled cheese sandwiches. Recently, it fetched 10 times its estimate at auction.

Maud Lewis was a self-taught folk artist in Canada, the kind of person no one takes seriously until they burst onto the world stage. Something similar happened to one of her paintings, “Black Truck.”

Sydney Page reports at the Washington Post, “Like clockwork, John Kinnear and his wife, Audrey, would go to the same restaurant each afternoon and sit at the table by the circular window. Kinnear would order only one thing: a grilled cheese sandwich.

“ ‘I could not convince Mr. Kinnear to have anything else,’ said Irene Demas, 69, who owned the Mediterranean restaurant The Villa with her husband Tony in Ontario for about a decade in the 1970s.

“The sandwich, priced at $1.95, was made with fresh bread from a local Italian bakery, aged cheddar cheese and a substantial smear of butter to make it perfectly crispy — exactly how Kinnear liked it.

“Kinnear, an artist, lived around the corner from The Villa, and he and his wife, both in their 50s, made it their regular hangout for several years in the early 1970s. The Kinnears, who are no longer alive, developed a close friendship with the Demases.

“ ‘My husband made a deal with them to trade food for art,’ said Demas, adding that Kinnear would often show up for lunch clutching a painting or two under his arm. ‘We needed art for our walls, and he needed to eat every day.’

“Demas said their arrangement with Kinnear wasn’t unusual back then.

“ ‘In the ’70s, it was different. We didn’t think so much about ourselves; we thought about our neighbors and how we could help each other out,’ she said. ‘They were very generous, and in return we did what we could for them.’

“Still, Demas and her husband, who is now 90, never imagined that a painting Kinnear traded them for a simple sandwich would one day be worth a small fortune.

“While Kinnear mainly brought his own work to the restaurant, he once arrived with several colorful paintings by an artist from Nova Scotia named Maud Lewis. …

“Lewis was a poor painter in Eastern Canada who could barely afford supplies, and she had suffered from crippling rheumatoid arthritis since she was a teen. Kinnear read about her in a 1965 newspaper article with the headline ‘The Little Old Lady Who Painted Pretty Pictures.’

“As a fellow artist, Kinnear was touched by her story and began sending her supplies, including brushes and paints. In exchange for his kindness, Lewis gave Kinnear several paintings. She typically sold her artwork at the side of the road for $10 per piece.

“Demas said the paintings — which Kinnear propped up on chairs in the restaurant that day — had a playful quality that intrigued her.

“ ‘I had never seen anything like that,’ she said. One in particular, featuring a black truck, ‘just jumped out at me.’ …

“The Demases had no idea that Lewis, who died in 1970, would become one of Canada’s foremost folk artists, despite never achieving wealth or prominence in her lifetime.

“Alan Deacon, an expert on Lewis’s work who authenticates her paintings, said her art skyrocketed in value after her death. …

“About a year ago, as the couple downsized their home, they decided to appraise a few items — including the black truck painting and the letters that authenticated Kinnear’s relationship with Lewis. …

“First, the Demases offered the artwork to their two children, both of whom urged their parents to sell it and enjoy the profits in their retirement. The couple decided it was time to part with the painting. …

“In a virtual auction on May 14, the painting sold for $272,548 — more than 10 times its assessed value. The letters fetched more than $54,500.

“ ‘I was just speechless,’ said Demas.

“Ethan Miller, chief executive officer at the auction house, was also stunned.

“ ‘Off the charts is an understatement,’ he said. ‘I think everybody saw in this painting exactly what Maud intended, which is brightness, optimism and fun. …

“ ‘Just given the heaviness of this era that we’ve managed to survive, suddenly someone mentions a grilled cheese sandwich and a celebrated artist that has overcome physical adversity,’ Miller said. ‘All of those things combined is as irresistible as a grilled cheese sandwich.’

“The buyer, a Canadian man who asked to stay anonymous to protect his privacy, said that was precisely what propelled him to purchase the painting. … ‘I’m not an art collector by any means.’

“The evening before the auction, he and his wife watched the 2016 film Maudie, which chronicles Lewis’s life. After learning her story of resilience, he wanted the piece.”

More at the Post, here. And if you have never seen the lovely Sally Hawkins film about the artist, Maudie, please check it out here.

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Photo: Weronika Murray.
Dana Tizya-Tramm
, the youngest chief in his First Nation’s history, is leading the fight against climate change.

Today’s story is about a young man who overcame personal challenges to become a leader of his tribe in the fight against climate change.

Tik Root writes at the Washington Post, “Perched on the edge of the Porcupine river, Dana Tizya-Tramm pointed upstream to a stand of black spruce trees that jutted into the partially-frozen water. They were like lemmings marching off a cliff. Those at the tip were falling into the river, while those in back awaited the inevitable.

“ ‘Drunken forests,’ said Tizya-Tramm, a cigarette between his fingers. He says neither he nor the elders remember there being such a pronounced lean in the past. It comes at least in part, he explained, because the earth no longer stays frozen year-round, even [in Old Crow, Yukon].

“This stretch of the Porcupine runs past the approximately 250-person community of Old Crow. The most northwest habitation in Canada — roughly 80 miles above the Arctic Circle — the town sits at the heart of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. September temperatures had already dropped below freezing, and Tizya-Tramm buttressed himself with tan moose hide mittens and a black puffy jacket. Embroidered on the right sleeve was ‘Chief.’

“At just 34 years old, Tizya-Tramm has risen not only through elected ranks, but from the depths of addiction and trauma to become the youngest known leader in the First Nation’s history. And he’s used that mandate to aggressively combat what he says is among the most pressing threats to his people: climate change.

“The shifting Arctic is squeezing the Vuntut Gwitchin on multiple fronts. Tizya-Tramm says less predictable caribou migration patterns have meant some villages can go years without a successful hunt, and the spawn of certain salmon species has dropped so low that fishing has been severely restricted in recent years. …

“Climate change is even threatening the First Nation’s identity as ‘people of the lakes.’ Scientists say that increased temperatures and higher precipitation have led to wetter conditions and thawing permafrost, which have contributed to the disappearance of dozens of large lakes in the region over recent decades. One study found that between 1950 and 2007, such ‘catastrophic drainages’ became five times more frequent.

“ ‘The hunters and trappers in our community, our harvesters, they’re the experts out on the land,’ said Lorraine Netro, a Vuntut Gwitchin elder. ‘They’ve been seeing and noticing the changes for the past 40 years.’

“These slow shifts can mean immediate hardship. When there’s less meat or fish, there’s more shopping at the Arctic Co-Op, the sole grocery store in town, where all the goods must first be trucked from Winnipeg to Whitehorse and then put on a plane north. A gallon of milk costs (CAD) $13.99. A bag of chips is $8. Tizya-Tramm remembers seeing a watermelon for $80 once. …

“One of the most expensive products in Old Crow, though, is diesel. Since 1961, the town has gotten its electricity through the use of gigantic generators, with fuel that’s flown in at a cost of nearly $11 per gallon. … So it’s hardly a surprise that one of the first questions Tizya-Tramm was faced with as Chief was: What are you going to do about climate change?

“It’s an issue that had been on his radar for years. As a Vuntut Gwitchin government councilor, part of his purview was the First Nation’s renewable energy efforts. While earlier feasibility studies indicated that solar was the best option, Tizya-Tramm inherited a proposed agreement that would have left the Vuntut Gwitchin owning less than half of the system. He helped renegotiate a deal in which the First Nation would own the entire solar array and sell the power back to the grid. The utility company would own the batteries and distribution network.

“By the Vuntut Gwitchin government’s estimate, the system would provide the community with about a quarter of its electricity needs — especially during the long, Arctic summer days. That would save tens of thousands of gallons of fuel per year, which at the astronomical prices in Old Crow is worth over (CAD) $400,000 annually. But the upfront cost for the solar power system was staggering: $7-9 million. Finding funding would take time.

“[Tizya-Tramm] recalled a community meeting after he became Chief during which the group discussed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s bleak assessment of where the planet was headed. On the way home, he said he had an ‘epiphany.’

What if he declared climate change an emergency for his people? …

“Within a week the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation had approved the declaration, which stated that ‘climate change constitutes a state of emergency for our lands, water, animals and people.’ …

“As news of Old Crow’s announcement spread, the town became a rising star in the climate world. Later that year, the Gwitchin built on the momentum when they voted to target net zero emissions by 2030. And, Tizya-Tramm was invited to speak around the globe. …

“Back home, Tizya-Tramm found that money for the solar project was now much easier to come by. ‘It went from knocking on doors, to them already being open when we approached,’ he said.

“The funding came primarily from the provincial and federal governments — support that Tizya-Tramm emphasizes was certainly deserved. Aside from suffering under years of colonial oppression, he said the First Nation is helping Canada achieve its goals under the Paris climate accord.

“Watching the Vuntut Gwitchin’s climate renaissance, Tizya-Tramm couldn’t help but see a personal parable. ‘It’s a terminal diagnosis,’ he said of climate change. ‘The entire world as a species needs to make the journey I did as an individual.’ …

“Tizya-Tramm was born into a history of Indigenous trauma. … By 13 his parents had divorced, and Tizya-Tramm was attending school either high or on hallucinogens. He then progressed to dealing drugs himself, building a client base within his friends. Then there was the fighting — both in school and outside of it, where he would face people far older. … He robbed and was robbed. On a few occasions he was stabbed. Then a suicide attempt became multiple attempts.”

At the Post, here, you can read about the slow, painstaking steps that allowed Tizya-Tramm to put all that behind him and gradually become the leader he is today.

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Image: Revery Architecture/Westbank/Squamish First Nation.
2021 artistic rendering of Senakw. The Squamish First Nation has set a goal of housing every member within a generation.

Just before the pandemic, I read at the Guardian about an indigenous-led development for Vancouver, Canada. And yes, it’s still going forward. The market-rate aspect of the development is supposed to fund the parts that benefit the First Nation providing the land. I found a more recent story from the Daily Hive.

Kenneth Chan reports, “By the end of this year, site preparation for construction could begin on the Senakw development. … Squamish First Nation members overwhelmingly voted to approve the massive development on their 12-acre Kitsilano reserve in late 2019. Thus allowing band leaders to seal the partnership with local developer Westbank and continue their work with refining the design concept.

“In an interview with Daily Hive Urbanized, Khelsilem, a spokesperson and councillor of the First Nation, said the heights of several buildings have been increased, including the tallest tower, now up from 56 storeys to 59 storeys at 172 metres (564 ft). … The first of four construction phases will target the westernmost parcel of the reserve — a narrow strip of land between the bridge and Vanier Park. …

“He said, ‘Some of the motifs of the building have been refined to incorporate Squamish culture and identity, and there is starting to be a bit more imagining of where the public gathering spaces will be.’

“The ground plain commercial space component of the project has changed too, with open public courtyards sunken into the landscape, activated by retail, restaurants, cafes, and potentially grocery stores and fitness centres.

“It also takes advantage of the space under the Burrard Street Bridge, using the structure as a cover for an ‘outdoor restaurant,’ gathering areas, a playground, and basketball courts.

“The residential component of the project still carries a total of 6,000 units, possibly enough to house as many as 9,000 people. …

“The housing tenure composition has not been finalized, but Khelsilem maintains purpose-built market rental housing will likely account for at least 70% of the homes. The below-market rental housing component dedicated to Squamish members has grown slightly to roughly 300 units. …

“The First Nation has set a goal of housing every member within a generation, defined as in 25 years. More than half of its 4,000 members live on reserve, and over 1,000 are on the housing waitlist, with the most recent housing allocations offered to members who have been waiting for over three decades.

“Senakw’s non-market housing component for members will help achieve some of this broader goal directly. The real win is that the revenue generated by the market housing will provide the First Nation with the capacity to pursue greater self-determination. It will greatly enhance their ability to provide current members and future generations with more services, such as eldercare, education, and language and culture support. It would also help fund more member housing initiatives beyond this reserve. …

“Khelsilem adds many members have also expressed excitement about the trades training and employment opportunities that will be offered by the construction project.

“ ‘It is important for the public to understand that this is an economic development venture, it is not an affordable housing project. It is an economic development venture so that we can generate significant amounts of revenue to be invested into our community because we’ve been without the means to do it otherwise,’ said Khelsilem. …

“The infusion of thousands of market rental homes at Senakw will serve to improve overall housing affordability in Metro Vancouver by filling some of the demand from moderate-income households.

“ ‘The reality is new market rental housing is affordable for middle class workers and families in Vancouver, and that’s who this housing will be for,’ he said, adding that strong demand for rental housing has persisted even under COVID-19 conditions.”

More at the Daily Hive, here.

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Photo: Chelsey Geralda Armstrong.
An aerial shot of the Sts’ailes forest garden. These forests demonstrate the way that First Nations people in the Pacific Northwest have actively managed natural ecosystems to increase the accessibility of preferred food near their homes.

Today’s story is about how indigenous people in Canada have created “forest gardens” to be able to harvest the traditional food the tribes value.

From the radio show Living on Earth:

“BOBBY BASCOMB: British Columbia is home to lush forests that cover almost two-thirds of the Canadian province. And for some ten thousand years, First Nations peoples made the forests their home. The trees provided much of what the people needed to survive and thrive. After asking permission of towering cedars, Coast Salish and other peoples would harvest bark for weaving and wood to carve canoes and totem poles. But they also carved out special gardens in the forest to grow food and medicinal plants. And new research shows that these forest gardens are still home to abundant biodiversity. …

“DR. CHELSEY GERALDA ARMSTRONG: We live in the Pacific Northwest where you have very contiguous conifer dominant forests … cedar and spruce and hemlock and firs. [But the forest gardens are] broadleaf forests, which are very rare here … maple and birch and then sub canopies of hazelnut and crabapple, all deciduous species. One of the big things that kind of sticks out when you’re in these places is at the right time of year, it’s just like a fruit paradise. There’s so many fruits going, kind of around late August, early September. It is an edible forest without question, and also a lot of medicinal species as well in that understory, things like wild ginger. …

“BASCOMB: And these were gardens cultivated by the Indigenous people that lived there, how did they create them? It sounds like they must have had to travel quite far to bring these different species together in one spot. …

“ARMSTRONG: We don’t know exactly how they were started, or when, how old they are, although we are getting closer to some dates. … Hazelnut, for example, [is] a native species to British Columbia, but it’s found far outside its range in certain forest gardens. But also, people were managing for succession. These types of forest management practices are basically utilizing and capitalizing on natural ecosystem processes. So things like wild raspberries, black huckleberries, Alaska blueberry, oval-leaf blueberry, all these kinds of plants that grow in forest gardens are locally available. And so it’s just about letting those things come back, keeping the competitors out, and then enhancing them with new species. …

“ARMSTRONG: Comparing forest gardens with the surrounding conifer forests, or what we refer to as peripheral forest, it was very clear that overall, forest gardens [were] a lot more biodiverse. … So you can imagine that, in fact, the edge between these two ecosystems are incredibly productive areas.

“BASCOMB: Well, that totally makes sense. I mean, you would expect more biodiversity in an area with, say, maybe a field, next to a forest, with a river running through it. If you have several different ecosystems all in one spot. ….

“ARMSTRONG: We found that forest gardens have a higher frequency of animal-dispersed and animal-pollinated species. So what this means is that forest gardens are the result of animal movement. And of course, humans are included in that category. But on top of that, what this suggests is that after humans left these gardens and villages, in some cases a couple hundred years ago, forest gardens began providing really unique habitat for animals and pollinators seeking food. So what we see here is an example of human land use that actually provides and increases functions across the landscape, rather than depleting it. …

“BASCOMB: Can you tell me about the First Nations people that lived in this area and created these gardens? …

“ARMSTRONG: I worked with two communities, Kitsumkalum, and Kitselas. And, you know, the archaeological record of people living in this area is very, very rich. People have been here for, you know, 10,000 plus years. And for Kitselas, we know that [families] have been in the same canyon area for at least 7,000 years. [But] people were forcibly removed from their communities. A lot of times they moved to the coast to work in canneries, which were, you know, kind of slave-like conditions for people. But they returned, a lot of them, to their communities in the ’50s and ’60s. …

“There are elders in Kitselas that always say, ‘Old villages are really good places to hunt,’ … But basically, these places have not been maintained for, you know, 200 years. … A huge part of our research is actually employing different management strategies, clearing the forest garden areas and getting them back to a place where they can be producing lots of food for people locally.

“BASCOMB: And what did you learn about these forest gardens from the First Nation elders that you spoke with? …

“ARMSTRONG: The elders had pointed me in [the direction of hazelnuts, which I was studying], saying, well, it’s not just hazelnut. [It’s] Pacific crabapple, it’s Saskatoon berries, it’s soapberries. And so, you know, they’re the ones that were leading a lot of this inquiry. And of course, we know from them all the different ethno-botanical uses of plants. … A lot of our research is kind of being led by them and the questions that they have about these places that we can answer.

“BASCOMB: Chelsey Armstrong directs the Historical and Ethnoecological Research, or HER, Lab at Simon Fraser University.”

More at Living on Earth, here.

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Photo: Political Blind Date
Toronto City Councilors Gary Crawford and Shelley Carroll, who hold very different political views, chat in a Toronto coffee shop during an episode of the TV show “Political Blind Date.”

What if each of us tried to reach across the divide? My brave friend Nancy does it in a class at the Council on Aging, where she actually talks politics. I’m not strong enough for that, but I really do work at nurturing the things I have in common with people whose politics are different. There are always things we have in common. After all, if Earth got invaded by hostile space aliens, we’d all be helping each other out without a second thought.

In Canada, they aren’t waiting for space aliens.

Sara Miller Llana writes at the Christian Science Monitor about a popular television show that has participants reaching across the political divide.

“When Gary Crawford confided to Shelley Carroll on TV that he has a daughter with a disability, the mother who raised a daughter diagnosed with autism replied instinctively, ‘Oh, Gary’ – conveying an empathy so obvious in just two words.

“It’s not that the Toronto city councilors didn’t know one another. They’d worked together in City Hall for the better part of a decade. But more often than not, they were dug in on either side of the chamber, battling over city finances.

“So this meeting, at a cozy Toronto coffee shop, was an intentional step away from those fiery legislative sessions, a way to help two rival politicians find common ground in sustaining North America’s fastest-growing city – even if Ms. Shelley envisions new revenue tools while Mr. Crawford dubs himself a ‘keep taxes low kinda guy.’

“Welcome to ‘Political Blind Date.’ The popular Canadian television show might sound like a hokey reality show for the political set. But for its creators, the aim is to undo some of the stubborn binaries that have built up around contentious issues from gun rights to taxation to immigration to climate change.

“Getting beyond the media scrum, the yelling during parliamentary question periods, the sound bites on nightly news, and the callous swipes over social media, producers set the stage for participants to engage one another with the time and respect that complex problems require.

‘Respect is at the heart of it. Not only are politicians, in the way they are using political rhetoric, not respecting each other; they’re disrespecting their citizenry,’ says Mark Johnston, showrunner of ‘Political Blind Date.’ ‘And at the same time, there’s been a disrespect and dehumanization of politicians.’ …

“With the filming of a fifth season underway, about 50 politicians have already participated, spending two days together with each other’s constituents and wrestling with legalization of marijuana, Indigenous rights, and climate change. It’s not easy: In one episode, a politician who supports gun rights visited a Toronto mother whose children were hit by bullets at a playground. 

“The goal is not to get the two politicians to reverse their positions, something that rarely happens. It’s to slow down and study policies in all their complexity, and to hear the human concerns and perspectives that lie behind their support. …

“During the episode on Toronto city finances, which aired in January 2020, Mr. Crawford hands Ms. Carroll a button to put on. Hers is a big yellow disk with an arrow pointing upward, reading ‘High Property Taxes.’ His reads the opposite, the arrow pointing downward next to ‘Low Property Taxes.’ 

“But after the show, he realizes the buttons don’t make as much sense as he originally thought. They both want their constituents to be able to stay in their homes and rely on services their taxes pay for. …

“He says he’s still a ‘low tax kinda guy.’ But the experience opened him up to a conversation he would not have been willing to have before the episode. And both say they talk more than they ever did before. ‘We’re often understaffed, under-resourced, and really stretched for time,’ says Ms. Carroll. ‘We don’t get to know enough about each other’s personal lives. So you don’t know where each other are coming from. 

“ ‘You can have different politics, but it always helps if you can humanize and say, “OK, I get your point of view and it’s different from mine, but I know where you’re coming from, so let’s work on it,” ‘ she says. …

“Anna-Kay Russell, co-founder and director of funding partnerships for the Canadian Black Policy Network, says this kind of connection between two rivals has a trickle-down effect. ‘The “us versus them” mentality not only seeps into the behavior of our politicians, but down into the mindsets of the voters, and it detracts from the fact that we’re a nation that needs to and should be operating as one, collectively,’ she says. …

“The show has averaged about 195,000 viewers per episode, a solid number for a small network like TVO, says [John Ferri, an executive of TVO, the television network that airs the show,] and it has been optioned to the United Kingdom, France, Israel, and South Africa. The show’s creators are also shopping it to the United States, given all the divisions that have grown amid the pandemic. …

“[Johnston] sees potential even in the explosive political environment of the U.S. ‘It’s easy to sit behind a Twitter account or stand up in a legislature,’ he says. ‘But if you agree to go on a journey with another human being, I just think in general people are going to listen to each other.’ ”

More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

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Photo: Le Lac St Jean.
Jean-Daniel Bouchard (left) in a 2011
Nutcracker. Bouchard now divides his time between ballet and his family’s farm.

I like reading about independently minded people who make surprising decisions that are perfect for them. In this story from Canada, a successful ballet dancer realized during the pandemic that keeping his family farm going is just as important to him as ballet.

CBC has the story. “A farmer in the Saguenay–Lac-St-Jean region of Quebec is striking a fine, if unusual, balance: running his family dairy farm by day and working as a classical ballet dancer by night.

“Jean-Daniel Bouchard started dancing before he turned four, and after high school he decided to try to make a career of it. His dancing took him to Banff, Alberta, British Columbia, Toronto and Montreal. In all, Bouchard spent almost nine years more or less constantly on tour. …

“But eventually, his rural Quebec upbringing as a sixth-generation farmer in St-Bruno started to call him home.

Map: Wikimedia Commons
St-Bruno, Quebec.

“Bouchard told Quebec AM that he was looking for more stability, to settle down, and his two older brothers were not especially interested in taking over the farm.

‘I thought it would be really sad to lose this family treasure,’ he said. ‘So I thought I could do both — I could come back here, start a company and dance, and do the farming with my dad.’

“Bouchard said although his twin passions may seem like something of a contradiction — farming can be gruelling physical labour and involves plenty of financial mathematics, versus an art form that depends on imagination and creativity — they help him find balance.

” ‘I think this is the perfect match for life,’ he said. ‘You have more stable work and then you can let go of the stress with dance.’

“Plus, there are physical benefits. Bouchard said farm work makes him stronger, which helps with his dancing, whereas the repetitive movements and stretching he uses for ballet help him prevent injury in the barn.

“With theatres closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bouchard is both taking and teaching virtual dance classes. …

” ‘We can’t wait for the studios to open again so we can get back into a full dance ballet class, and to be able to move from a space in the studio to the other end,’ he said. …

“Bouchard said he sometimes misses touring and will dream he’s off dancing somewhere else, but he’s happy with the life he chose as both a farmer and a dancer. … ‘The point should be to be happy,’ he said.”

More at CBC, here. I can’t help wondering how Bouchard will manage when his father is no longer able to work. Somehow, I’m confident he’ll figure it out.

Video by Romy Boutin St-Pierre

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Photo: Christian Kuntz
After Gurdeep Pandher
became a Canadian citizen in 2011, he traveled across the country, dancing bhangra with people of all faiths and finally settling in the Yukon because it reminded him most of his village in Punjab.

I liked today’s story about bringing joy through dance. I especially liked learning about research showing that differences drop away when people move in unison.

Sara Miller Llana writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “He has led firefighters and police officers to the rhythms of bhangra – a centuries-old dance that hails from the farming fields of Punjab. He has danced in front of Canada’s Parliament in Ottawa and amid crashing waves of the country’s Pacific Coast.

“But these days, Gurdeep Pandher has more fans than he ever has – by posting videos of himself dancing in the snow-covered forest behind his cabin near Whitehorse in Yukon, Canada’s northwesternmost territory.

“At this time of year, it’s not until about 11 a.m. that the sun comes out, filtering through the trees and drawing him outdoors. ‘It looks so beautiful, to me it looks just like magic,’ he says. ‘I do feel like I live in a winter wonderland.’

“On the winter solstice last month, in a bright blue sweater, an orange turban, and brown snow boots, Mr. Pandher posted a new video of himself doing what he calls a ‘happy dance’: arms raising to the sky, knees as high as they go, and the broadest of smiles. …

“Bhangra began as a farmer’s dance in Punjab to celebrate a good harvest, but it’s found its way across the globe, from trendy DJ fusions to entertainment on basketball courts of North America. Mr. Pandher has been dancing it since he was a child, and he says there’s no surprise to him that it’s caught on – for its upbeat sounds and its core value of joy.

‘If you’re dancing bhangra, and you are not happy, that is not bhangra, even if you are doing all the moves perfectly,’ he says.

“That’s why he believes his videos, one after the other, keep going viral during the pandemic, when there is so much darkness and heaviness.

“ ‘There’s a Punjabi saying that when there’s a lot of darkness, we value brightness more. And I’ve noticed that, a lot of the sort of people who never cared about watching my videos before, like lawyers, or politicians, or diplomats, are sending me messages,’ he says.

“ ‘Before maybe they didn’t feel like something light was professional, or important, but now in these difficult times they realize the importance of someone dancing to create happiness, someone who’s preaching that kindness is important, what our ancestors from centuries have been preaching.’

“He’s not the only one feeling a new buzz around bhangra. Harshjot Singh, who founded Power Bhangra with his wife in Montreal, is these days offering popular bhangra fitness classes over Zoom. It’s a physical workout, but he says it’s also the culture of bhangra that he believes keeps his students – who span Canada and even North America – signing up. ‘You have to smile, it’s just the rule of the dance. And as students learn about it, slowly and steadily, it just comes naturally.’ …

“Peter Lovatt, the author of new book The Dance Cure, says that dancing, unlike just plain fitness, has four key benefits in the realms of social, thinking, emotions, and the physical – which, fittingly, spell STEP.

“All of those areas are suffering during the pandemic, and everyone benefits from things like physical activity or disconnecting from the Internet. But there is something especially compelling about the synchrony of dance in today’s climate. ‘When people dance in synchrony, it increases how much they like each other,’ Dr. Lovatt says.”

More at the Christian Science Journal, here.

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Photo: Laura Cluthé
The Christian Science Monitor says the 1,250-foot Superstack in Sudbury, Ontario, is “a symbol of the city’s gritty past” but is being replaced by two smaller, cleaner stacks.

Sometimes the worst offenders against the public good are the first to test a new course. As today’s story shows, it does help if they get a nudge from government regulation.

Sara Miller Llana reports at the Christian Science Monitor about a big polluter in a Canadian mining town that’s decided to cooperate with greening efforts.

“When the Superstack was constructed in 1972, it was the tallest structure in Canada – and the tallest smokestack in the world. At 1,250 feet, it’s visible from every vantage point in the area [and] has long stood as a reminder of the environmental devastation that mining wrought here. But this year the chimney is being fully decommissioned. …

“Whether or not the structure remains a fixture on the skyline when it’s taken out of operation, it tells a powerful tale of renewal. The stack was built as part of an industrial complex that denuded the land here of any kind of vegetation, leaving blackened rocks and lakes without fish. The landscape drew comparisons to moonscapes and barren Martian worlds. At one time the smelters in Sudbury were the largest point source of sulfur dioxide in the world.

“It got so bad that scientists, politicians, industry officials, and the community finally came together to halt the pollution, replant the trees, and restock the lakes. It has been 40 years of toil and triumph, and the story is not over yet. But today Sudbury enjoys some of the cleanest air quality in Ontario. Residents swim and fish in the 330 lakes inside the city’s boundaries.

And those here say the community of 165,000, at the gateway of northern Ontario, offers a lesson in how to break the cycle of conflict that the current climate crisis often creates, pitting industry against the environment. …

“Says David Pearson, an earth scientist and driving force in turning around Sudbury, ‘When one speaks of the Sudbury story, [it] somehow seems local and isolated, and it’s not local and isolated. It’s an example of what we need to modify in order to be able to live alongside a thriving environment.’ …

“Dr. Pearson, who arrived from a coal mining town in northern England, remembers distinctly how bad the air smelled one day in 1969. … ‘I parked in the parking lot, and I had to run in order to be able to hold my breath long enough to get into a building because the smell of the sulfur dioxide was so powerful even in my car. … I had never experienced anything nearly as penetrating a pollution as this.’

“For a child in Sudbury back then, fun didn’t involve climbing trees or playing hide-and-seek in the forest. Young people like Dave Courtemanche, who went on to become mayor, clambered over rocks. There was no greenery to be found in his neighborhood or at his school. …

“On a hillside, he and classmates carved out an acre of land and limed and fertilized it. As tufts of grass began to poke through, he recalls a feeling that might be comparable to children of the tropics seeing their first snowflakes. ‘Looking up and seeing a green patch emerging from the dead earth was nothing short of a miracle,’ he says. … Mr. Courtemanche was unwittingly among the first volunteers in one of the largest regreening efforts in Canadian history. …

“Laurentian University was established in 1960. ‘Nobody was going to say anything against the company, essentially,’ says Peter Beckett, an ecologist at the university and chair of the city’s advisory panel on regreening. ‘And so the university was kind of the first independent thing in the town, and people started asking questions: “Can one do anything about the landscape?” ‘ … 

“Dr. Beckett and Graeme Spiers, another scientist from Laurentian University, … have traveled the world [with a roadshow] called ‘Sudbury, 40+ Years of Healing.’ 

“None of this would have been possible without tough regulations, though. When the Superstack was built, mining’s motto for the era was ‘Dilution is the solution to pollution.’ New technology and evolving processes helped reduce emissions in Greater Sudbury, but the Superstack dispersed them further afield, to neighboring provinces, and as far as the United States and Greenland. …

“The provincial government developed the Countdown Acid Rain program, which forced Inco and other major polluters in 1985 to cut emissions by more than 60% in under a decade. The companies balked at first.”

Read how they eventually not only got on board but decided to do more than required, here.

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Photo: CNN
A man walking through a Vancouver tent city in March. According to CNN, “Researchers in a new study found that homeless people who received direct cash transfers were able to find stable housing faster.”

Some years ago I asked a woman who headed an excellent Rhode Island nonprofit for housing whether she gave money to panhandlers. She said she did not, and I thought I shouldn’t either. But Mother Teresa had said to smile at people in need. I found I could manage that.

The belief that giving money leads panhandlers to buy drugs has long been the common wisdom. But a new study from Canada suggests it’s wrong.

Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman reports at CNN, “You’ve heard this refrain before — giving money to homeless people is not the best way to help them because it might be squandered, or spent on harmful habits.

“But a new Canadian study makes a powerful case to the contrary. The study, dubbed ‘The New Leaf Project,’ is an initiative of Foundations for Social Change, a charitable organization based in Vancouver, in partnership with the University of British Columbia.

“Researchers gave 50 recently homeless people a lump sum of 7,500 Canadian dollars (nearly $5,700). They followed the cash recipients’ life over 12-18 months and compared their outcomes to that of a control group who didn’t receive the payment. The preliminary findings, which will be peer-reviewed next year, show that those who received cash were able to find stable housing faster, on average. By comparison, those who didn’t receive cash lagged about 12 months behind in securing more permanent housing.

“People who received cash were able to access the food they needed to live faster. Nearly 70% [maintained] greater food security throughout the year.

The recipients spent more on food, clothing and rent, while there was a 39% decrease in spending on goods like alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. …

“Said Claire Williams, the CEO and co-founder of Foundations for Social Change, ‘We really think it’s important to start testing meaningful risk-taking in the name of social change.’ …

“The 115 participants in the randomized controlled trial were between the ages of 19 and 64, and they had been homeless for an average of 6 months. Participants were screened for a low risk of mental health challenges and substance abuse. Funding for the initiative came from a grant from the Canadian federal government, and from donors and foundations in the country.

” ‘One of the things that was most striking is that most people who received the cash knew immediately what they wanted to do with that money, and that just flies in the face of stereotypes,’ Williams told CNN.

“For example, she explained some cash recipients knew they wanted to use the money to move into housing, or invest in transportation — getting a bike, or taking their cars to the repair shop to be able to keep their jobs. Others wanted to purchase computers. A number of them wanted to start their own small businesses. …

“Direct cash transfers are not ‘a silver bullet for homelessness in general,’ and the program focused on ‘a higher functioning subset of the homeless population,’ Williams said, but she believes the research shows that providing meaningful support to folks who have recently become homeless decreases the likelihood they will become entrenched. …

“The study shows there are advantages for the taxpayer, too. According to the research, reducing the number of nights spent in shelters by the 50 study participants who received cash saved approximately 8,100 Canadian dollars per person per year, or about 405,000 Canadian dollars over one year for all 50 participants.”

More details at CNN, here.

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Photo: Allison Stocks
Recent carbon dating has revealed that the oldest clam garden known to science was built about 3,500 years ago,” says the Guardian. It’s in Canada’s Vancouver area.

I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy the verbal style some indigenous people use when speaking of traditional ways or of ancestors. If it is not disrespectful to say so, it transports me to a place in the imagination where wizards and Hobbits reside — different from my own place in a way that feels both magical and close to Nature.

In Vancouver, Adrienne Matei writes for the Guardian, “On winter nights for the past six years, a group of 20 people have rustled through dark, coniferous woods to emerge on a Canadian beach at the lowest possible tide, illuminated by a correspondingly full moon.

“An elder offers a greeting to the place and a prayer, then the team of researchers, volunteers, and First Nations ‘knowledge holders’ lights a warming fire and begins its work. At sites outlined by stones placed hundreds or even thousands of years ago, some begin raking, or ‘fluffing,’ the top three inches of the beach, loosening rocks and mud — and a remarkable number of old clam shells.

“When the tide comes back in, it will flush out any rotting organic matter, changing ‘some places that are compact and smelly into a good clam beach again.’ says Skye Augustine, a member of the Stz’uminus First Nation.

“This spot was once a clam garden, an ancient indigenous form of mariculture that coastal First Nations people have used for millennia. It is estimated that they once numbered in the thousands along the Pacific north-western coast, though ruins are all that’s left of most. In collaboration with the W̱SÁNEĆ and Hul’q’umi’num nations, Augustine has spearheaded the first formal clam garden rehabilitations at two sites in the Gulf Islands, in British Columbia, with dozens more to follow.

‘My elders articulated to me that if we want to bring our beaches back to life again, we need to bring people back on to them to care for them as they have been cared for in the past.

” ‘That became my inspiration for my education and career,’ she says. ‘How do we make this clam garden thing happen?’

“For millennia pre-colonization, clam gardens epitomized sustainable food security for Pacific north-western coastal nations from northern Washington to south-eastern Alaska. Modern studies have found that clam gardens have historically been up to 300% more productive than unmodified beaches, that their clams grew larger and faster than average, and that the clams did not exhibit any signs of resource stress from over-harvesting.

“To create the beaches, indigenous people built rock walls parallel to a beach’s low tide line, which would trap sediment and flatten the slope of the shore. With continuing tending, such as tilling to improve aeration and the removal of predators like sea stars, these gardens increase or create habitat for butter, littleneck, and horse clams, as well as crabs, chitons, seaweeds, and other useful species.

“Recent carbon dating has revealed that the oldest clam garden known to science was built about 3,500 years ago. …

“ ‘It has always been our duty to be the stewards of the land,’ says group member Nicole Norris, a knowledge holder for the Hul’q’umi’num and an aquaculture specialist. ‘It is the exact same land my ancestors walked. … From the work that we’ve done, we’ve seen the greater ecosystem return – some of the people who live in the local communities have talked about the return of certain birds and plants, and that’s been heartwarming,’ she says.

“In addition to providing food, clam gardens have historically provided the opportunity for ‘grandparents, aunties, and uncles to spend time at the beach with their grandchildren and younger generations, not only teaching about how to tend the environment … but sharing stories, language, spiritual ties to the place,’ says Melissa Poe, who specializes in the social and cultural dimensions of ecosystems at the University of Washington.”

More at the Guardian, here.

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Photo: Jack Plant
A spirit bear in British Columbia. “A recent study revealed that the white bear is rarer and more vulnerable than previously thought.” says the

When my grandchildren were old enough for a story but young enough for “The Three Bears,” I often created variations on demand. The youngest granddaughter in particular had a range of complicated story lines she wanted to hear, in which Baby Bear had her name and an older brother bear had her brother’s name.

Because almost everyone likes stories about bears, I’m telling three today. All true.

Alexandra Harvey reported the first story for the Guardian. “When Marven Robinson was a kid, any mention of spirit bears was met with hushed dismissal from the elders in his community, the Gitga’at First Nation of Hartley Bay, British Columbia. Since the 19th century, Indigenous peoples in the area learned to keep the bears with ghostly coats a secret to protect them from fur traders.

“As the ancient legend goes, the Wee’get (meaning the ‘raven,’ known as the creator of the world) turned every 10th black bear white to remind people of the pristine conditions of the Ice Age.

“Spirit bears are white-coated black bears that inherit their pale fur from a rare recessive gene. Known as moksgm’ol, meaning ‘white bear, spirit bears are sacred to the Indigenous people who live in the Great Bear Rainforest. …

“A recent collaborative study by the Kitasoo/Xai’xais and Gitga’at First Nations and academic researchers has revealed that the white bear is rarer and more vulnerable than previously thought.

“Researchers spent eight years combing 18,000sq km of the rainforest, placing lures on barbed wire to collect hair samples from black and spirit bears and map out the presence of the white bear gene. … The study concluded the gene that causes spirit bears is up to 50% rarer than previously thought. Urgently, about half of spirit bear hotspots fall outside of British Columbia protected areas, making their habitats vulnerable to logging, mining and drilling projects.

“Spirit bears have long been present in First Nations traditional song, dance, and storytelling. … Before he saw a spirit bear for himself, Douglas Neasloss, co-author of the study and resource stewardship director for the Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation, doubted they even existed. When he was 17, he went in search of spirit bears, half in jest, with some friends.

‘I just thought they were pulling my leg,’ Neasloss said. …

“Sure enough, as he was walking through the forest, he saw one of the magical white bears making its way toward him, sun shining through the trees, salmon hanging out of its mouth. From that moment on, he knew they had to be protected. …

Research by University of Victoria scientists found, because of their white color, spirit bears have a unique advantage over black bears when catching salmon since they blend into the daylight. Spirit bears’ propensity for catching salmon helps explain their resilience despite being so rare, says Christina Service, wildlife biologist for Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation Stewardship Authority and lead author on the spirit bear study.

“Worryingly, climate change is wiping away salmon stocks, posing a big threat to bears’ food supply. British Columbia’s Pacific salmon populations have declined by over 80% since the 1990s. Neasloss says 2020 has been the worst year yet.

“Equipped with new information about the vulnerability of spirit bears, the question now is how best to protect them. For Neasloss and many others who know the bears intimately, the answer is obvious: Leave it up to the First Nations, the original stewards of the land. … Neasloss is involved in efforts to create a new land designation for the rainforest called an Indigenous Protected Area, a conservation strategy that is gaining traction across Canada. …

“ ‘For the last 150 years, we’ve been on the outside looking in,’ Neasloss says. ‘Drawing a line on the map does not protect an area. The people do.’ ” More at the Guardian, here.

For the second of my three bear stories, I offer one from CNN, where Anna Chernova and Lianne Kolirin wrote, “The perfectly preserved remains of an Ice Age cave bear have been discovered in the Russian Arctic — the first example of the species ever to be found with soft tissues intact. The astonishing find was made by reindeer herders on the Lyakhovsky Islands, which are part of the New Siberian islands archipelago in Russia’s Far North.”

Interesting that indigenous people are involved in that story, too, and that they’re sharing their information with nonindigenous scientists.

There are no indigenous people involved in my third story, as far as I know. According to Travis Anderson at the Boston Globe, a bear has raided a Covid food pantry at a Westhampton, Massachusetts, church. Quoting the church’s website, he writes, “This week the bears decided that they had more need of the food bank than we did, so we’ve had to temporarily disband services.”

The church is looking for a new site.

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