Monday, 9 October 2017

The Endasak tree-planting and bee-keeping group: a group like none other!

By Aliraza Alidina, 2nd year MDP student
MVIWATA – Mtandaowa Vikundibya Wakulima Tanzania – is a national network of small scale farmer’s groups. In my three months internship in Babati, I worked as a Monitoring and Learning officer for the MVIWATA branch of the Manyara region. MVIWATA Manyara works in five districts of the Manyara region: Babati, Hanang, Kiteto, Mbulu and Simanjiro.

Being part of activities with multiple groups, I realized that project success really depends on the group dynamics. Many – if not most – groups we worked with were facing different challenges which affected the progress and success of the projects. For that reason, MVIWATA works hard to constantly follow-up activities and assist in any way possible. But at the end of the day, committed groups with a strong team are the only ones to really achieve successful results. One such group is the Endasak group in Hanang district. The Endasak group has 30 members. Amongst them, five are crucial members and sort of lead much of the project due to their strong dedication.

Planning session with Endasak group
One of the focus areas of MVIWATA Manyara is ‘environment conservation and water’. MVIWATA has tree planting, bee-keeping, biogas and climate-change sensitization projects. I was able to take part in some of these projects, particularly tree-planting and bee-keeping. The way it works is that MVIWATA works with different small-scale farmers groups to implement the projects. MVIWATA supports the groups through the funding that comes from Trias, a Belgian NGO.

Cleaning of the hives
I witnessed a tree-planting and bee-keeping project with this group which consisted of the following: initial a planning session, the moving of bee-hives, cleaning of bee-hives and the opening “ceremony”. The ceremony was a short meeting where we were invited to mark a new beginning for the group. There were prayers in Islamic and Christian style followed by sharing of biscuits and soda. The experience was quite humbling.

From my short experience, I can firmly say that the Endasak group is exemplar for other groups to emulate. An essential ingredient of this successful team is the presence of a solid core sub-group who are at the fore-front of much of the activities. I hope their projects achieve the intended results and other groups take inspiration from them!
Celebrating a new beginning

Friday, 6 October 2017

My Field Placement with Te Whānau o Waipareira - Part 2

By Sarah Wood, 2nd year MDP student

Rainbow in Waitangi
Waipareira is a fast-paced, high energy organization, so it’s not surprising to me how quickly the second half of my time with Waipareira went by. It was an absolute pleasure to spend these last three months here.

In addition to continuing my work on the literature review and other research activities, in the second half of my placement, Paige and I had the opportunity, thanks to some of our generous hosts at Waipareira, to travel throughout northern New Zealand. Being based in Auckland for most of the placement, it was wonderful to see some rural areas including Hokianga, Waitangi (where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed), Opononi, and the Waipoua Forest (home of Tane Mahuta pictured below). We had the privilege of hearing about each of these culturally significant and sacred areas from amazing people who call this area home.  

Tane Mahuta and me (if you look really closely) for scale
There was no shortage of opportunities to expand by knowledge of the innovative ways Maori have and continue to challenge the impact of colonialism. A key component of Waipareira is the use of te reo Maori (Maori language) and it was amazing to witness speakers of all levels utilizing the language on a daily basis. If you read about Indigenous language revitalization, you will most likely come across information about Maori language nests (immersion for young children). This in mind, it was humbling to work alongside both parents who were instrumental in establishing the first of these nests for their children as well as fluent speakers who were the first generation to attend. It was amazing to witness the pride taken in using and preserving te reo Maori for future generations and this experience has inspired me to continue working on Anishinaabemowin.

I am so grateful for this amazing learning experience and for our Waipareira whanau, and I hope to return to Aotearoa soon! 

Auckland from the top of the Sky Tower on my last day

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

My First Field Placement with The Winnipeg Boldness Project: Indigenous Doulas and Health Advocacy

By Ari Phanlouvong, 1st year MDP student 
Tipi in the sun
The Indigenous doula program is a one of a kind service offered in Manitoba for Indigenous women who travel for birth. As I have learned through interviews, as well as through discussions with friends, there are many common misconceptions about the role of doulas in birth. Indigenous doulas are however distinct as they offer women with emotional support, along with an optional support that is culturally based. This cultural support includes teachings, stories, ceremonies, natural medicines and teas for women during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. More importantly, Indigenous doulas ensure that women are in control of events and processes surrounding birth, and that they are provided with support and resources that are necessary for informed decision-making. Thus, I learned this summer that the Indigenous doulas not only provided emotional care, but were also very strong advocates for women in the hospital setting. 

In the same sense, as partners in the doula program, The Winnipeg Boldness Project (Boldness) and the North End Women’s Centre offered a “Baby Basket” to all families participating in the program. The Baby Basket allows families to choose several items from a variety of categories such as bathing and hygiene, clothing, toys and books, and even some cultural items such as a star blanket and moccasins. The Baby Basket package therefore advocates and ensures that each basket respects families’ right to self-determination.

Tucker, the Boldness office sweetheart
This field placement has helped me to develop not only practical skills in the field of research, but has also enabled me to think of Indigenous women’s health differently.

I had the privilege of meeting and working with many new individuals throughout the summer, from the hardworking and passionate women at Boldness, and a great research team, to the families in the community, the doulas, and some of the women who have initiated this program. Meeting individuals from such a broad range of professional backgrounds and experiences has allowed me to really understand the different aspects of the Indigenous doula program.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Mikwendaagoziwag: They Are Remembered…Reflections on experiences from the Sandy Lake Memorial ceremony

By Jordan Tabobondung, 1st year MDP student

Lac Courte Oreilles Chairman Mic Isham giving a representative from Army Corps of Engineers an opportunity to speak 

The flowing memory encapsulated through Nibi (water) continues to renew and replenish the thoughts, memories, experiences and hearts of those who attended the Sandy Lake Tragedy Memorial ceremony, a historic event also referred to as the Chippewa Trail of Tears. Through what was shared by elders and leadership representing more than 12 Ojibwe/Anishnaabe Tribes of the Great Lakes region I have learned a great deal more about what had happened during the Fall and Winter of 1850 as Anishinaabeg waited for their annual treaty payments. A plot was constructed by President Taylor’s administration and officials who wanted to put pressure on Anishinabeg Tribes of the southwestern Lake Superior region in the hopes of permanent western relocation to free up land for settler use and control.

The president’s administration as well as territorial officials pressured the move west to Minnesota by changing the location of Treaty payments from Madeline Island to Sandy Lake in Minnesota. As the Anishinaabeg waited for their treaty payments and much needed supplies at Sandy Lake in Minnesota the seasons shifted to winter and many died due to the resulting effects of little to no food, quality supplies, harsh weather conditions and illnesses among other reasons. It was December by the time agents made partial Treaty payments. It is estimated that 400 or so Anishinaabeg had died at Sandy Lake or on the way back to their home territories, after they decided to no longer live under such horrific conditions. A delegation of Chiefs, fueled by the tragedy at Sandy Lake and other events had journeyed to Washington in 1852 to lobby an order to stop the illegal removal of Lake Superior Anishinabeg, to return Treaty payments to Madeline Island and eventually establish reservation boundaries.

One of the Sandy Lake Mikwendaagoziwag activities is to paddle across Sandy Lake as a way to reconnect ourselves and retrace part of the experience of those ancestors. On the shores before the canoe journey begins the elders and tribal leaders hosted pipe ceremony and shared their hopes and reflections about the tragedy in what took place here 167 years ago and the efforts that have been made to ensure we remember those ones who didn't make it back home and the actions that caused the tragedy. We began to place canoes into the water when Migizi (Eagle) first flew by and as we paddled across Sandy Lake the water was calm, still and reflecting the sky so clearly. As we approached the shoreline where the Sandy Lake Memorial rests now after the tribes came together to ensure its presence in 2001, Migizi was calling out and could be heard across the water. It's been so long it seems since I got to be out paddling, and I feel grateful to have had such a beautiful day and calm waters for the journey, learning and participation in ceremony with the people. 

At Sandy Lake Tragedy Memorial ceremony

We waited for all the canoes to make it to shore as preparations were made for the feast we would be sharing together. We gathered to send out our prayers through asemaa (tobacco), to sing our songs and share a meal with the ones who have walked on before us in ceremony as shown to us by the elders and bundle keepers from the societies that exist within the communities. The elders, tribal leaders and bundle carriers spoke about the importance of us remembering our Anishinaabeg histories, connections to the water, animals and plant life that sustains us as human beings. Those in attendance were reminded to remember those ones who lived, who have died and appreciate their actions, achievements, sacrifices and hardships. It is through the work in their lifetimes which ensured that we descendant generations have our Anishinaabeg lifeways intact to carry forward in our time to the generations yet to be.

Part of that reminder was to share about what happened at Sandy Lake such as like I am doing now with this blog post, sharing information with the people, so that it is history that does not become forgotten, and there is a broader awareness of these events. We need to understand where we come from to help us determine where we are going as people, tribes and nations. These events of the collective history of North America, both in Canada and the United States should not, and must not be ignored and forgotten for the sake of Reconciliation- for these events and this history is what determines WHY there must be reconciliation between the governments and our Tribes and First Nations. The truth must be revealed to the people, and must be felt by all of us as descendants in order to extend our understandings of who we are, where we come from and what we must do to ensure these kinds of tragedies do not happen again.

Links for Reference:

1.      The Sandy Lake Tragedy: In Three Minutes-

2.      Chequamegon History- The Removal Order of 1849-

3.      Sandy Lake Tragedy- or the Chippewa Trail of Tears-