Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Cultural Preservation Initiative Program 2013

Well, it’s been a busy summer for the CES team.  We travelled from coast to coast across Canada to share new opportunities about how communities can celebrate the spirit and identity of their people through digital storytelling. Our passion for preserving indigenous cultures and finding innovative ways how communities can share their story drove us to create the Cultural Preservation Initiatives Program.

Clinton and Steve in Serpent River First Nation
We set aside $50,000 as part of our Corporate Social Responsibility to support local community development initiatives that ensure preservation of culture through responsible economic development and empowerment. We believe strongly in sustainable community development and the promotion of Canada’s unique cultures and we were excited to visit communities across Canada.

Throughout our travels we met with some amazing people, made new friends, shared a lot of laughs, and learned about the different communities and their culture, some of their challenges, and their thoughts on projects related to preserving their culture; in particular projects that encourage bridging the generational gap between Elders and Youth.

Workshop participants in Mississauga First Nation
The most powerful moment that we’ve learned was the drive that Youth had to create positive changes in their communities.  One of the younger participants in one of our workshops shared that she was so happy to see her community taking steps to involve the Youth and it was evident that there is a need for the community to work together to preserve and celebrate their culture. The Elders that participated were thrilled to see a project that focused on bringing the community together as a whole to preserve and celebrate their culture.  One of the Elders just responded ‘finally’ at the end of the workshop. This emphasized the need for these types of projects.

Hanging with the crew in Potlotek First Nation
The CES team would like to personally thank all of the communities that were part of this initiative!! It was a pleasure visiting your communities and meeting all of the amazing people.

Because of the success of this initiative we are planning to do it again! Contact us at 
1-877-444-5550 or email us at amanda@cescleints.com for more details.

Visit us at www.cesclients.com to learn more about what we do!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Evelyn Poitras - CES' Intern - Reflects on her time at CES

I think it is time for my second blog.  This is Week 8 (of a 10 week placement) with CES and time has flown by.  I can say it has been a great learning experience and also one that I have very much enjoyed.  I would like to acknowledge the generosity that was extended to accommodate my placement here - thank you all!

CES is a small group with a great network of support and this is their 16th year of operation - no small feat and I offer my own congratulations.  I respect their independence, innovation and commitment that is not only professional but also very personal to their development in eco-tourism services.  They have expanded over the years to offer comprehensive support for economic development and have targeted Indigenous communities.  It is inspiring to work with people who truly love and believe in what they do. 

Last Monday, I had my first net meeting with everyone here including the President Clinton Belcher, Office Manager Margaret Zinowko, Project Manager Jessica Degraave and Project Liaison Amanda Huculak.  I was asked to make my own report at the net meeting and was surprised by how much I have been able to achieve here in a short time of seven weeks:

Vision Quest, May 14-16, 2013.  Highlights were Crystal Shawanda, singer and Board member for N7, Nike program for Native people; and presenter Ernesto Sirolli (of the Sirolli Institute) who spoke on community development and entrepreneurship. 

MKO (Manitoba Keewatin Okimakanak) 'Charting Economic Success on Our Sovereign Nations', May 27-29, 2013.  Highlights were learning about northern Manitoba Indigenous issues firsthand from the communities themselves. 

Creation of Wealth Forum, June 14-16, 2013.  I also worked at this conference that was hosted by the National Council of Indigenous Elders (NCIE).  As Bill Gallagher, one of the distinguished speakers at this forum, said of the elders, ‘they are providing the leadership that is needed for Indigenous economic development’.  There was a range of incredible speakers as well as an Honoring Ceremony for three business leaders selected by the NCIE. 

Community Development
Seine River First Nation-
The bulk of my time with CES was spent with a particular community, Seine River First Nation.  Jessica and I travelled to Fort Frances and Seine River First Nation in the first week of June.  I had been in this area once before for a Treaty 1-11 Gathering hosted by Treaty 3 in Fort Frances.  It was great to walk on the pier that extends into the lake on the shore of Pithers Point again - I remembered being here with my mother and brother.  I made great new memories on this trip - it’s such a beautiful location.

Meeting the people of Seine River was really wonderful - from the high school students in Fort Frances to the elders in their beautiful roundhouse at Seine River to the Chief and Council, band staff, and finally, the community members at the Open House we attended.  I cannot forget our guide Ira Johnson.  I said he reminded me of a friend from back home - Errol Kinistino - not knowing they knew each other.  And did I know Simon Moccasin?  We had a good laugh, what a small Indian world especially for Indian actors/singers/performers. 

Someone is playing Neil Young music here in the office this morning.  It feels like summer is going by too quick as well as my time here, nostalgic.  I am reminded of another singer, Chester Knight, who is like our own Indian Neil Young.  I encourage you to Google Chester and take a listen to anything he has on YouTube - he is a treasure. 

Part of my work here has been editing documents which has been a great way for me to review information and to have my own input which they are always graciously open to.  One of the discussions we had was on the word ‘culture’.  I said it is sometimes overused, a catch-all term sometimes void of any real meaning.  What is ‘culture’ really?  Spirit and identity, for example, seem more specific.  Now this is about life and this is the importance of language, songs, stories.  

Community development is about the dreams of the people.  I sat at the CES table at the Seine River First Nation Open House with a map of their community - Jessica knew this would draw the people.  We put Mylar plastic over top so we could write on it.  Community members would drop by and recognize points on the map and offer stories of their experiences.  There were two sisters who pointed out the places where they would canoe then portage on a trail.  They talked about the locations for berries and plants along the way.  They would go out for a day and make their way back again by canoe.  They were talking about great childhood memories and of their father - they were like little girls again.  This is life and blood making their cheeks rosy with their memories and laughter.  And when they shared this with me, I wanted to be on that canoe, picking those berries, walking that land, coming back with the sunset at the end of an adventure filled day.  For now, I drew my little squiggly lines over the map and shared their dreams.  The dreams of the people are based on where we come from, who we are.

On the way home from Seine River, we made an unplanned stop at a Heritage Centre.  There was a beautiful building with walking trails along the river.  And inside there was a gift shop, restaurant, and heritage centre with local Indigenous staff.  I came out happy with a birch basket, book on local plants, a t-shirt for my nephew.  It was an informative, enjoyable stop on our journey.  For the Indigenous community, this centre was the important preservation of their history, valuable employment, and pride in sharing the wealth of who they are.

For the Children:
I met Bill Gallagher at the Creation of Wealth Forum.  He is a lawyer and author of  Resource Rulers: Fortune and Folly on Canada’s Road to Resourcesa book on the impressive amount of Indigenous court wins for resource issues.  He contends that Indigenous people can translate this legal leverage to determining ecological and economic priorities for development.  I have listened to Bill speak a couple times now and in each case, he relates that any development is ‘for the children’.  I have heard this stated in other ways but mainly from Indigenous perspectives.  It was heartening to hear this from someone like Bill. 

Many times, it seems that we are at war - as Indian people, as young Indian people, as young Indian men...we are at war.  Sometimes our battle is in living every day.  We are called marginalized, oppressed, colonized but the translation of this is the personal attack on our spirit and identity as Indigenous people.  Yet our history is tied to the beginning of this land and the foundation of this country. 

All of our development - community, economic, etc. - comes back to why we pursue this.  It is to make a difference in lives.  And it is for the children - their spirit and identity.  The dreams of the people are their children.   

- Evelyn Poitras


Monday, June 24, 2013

Share the Spirit & Identity of Your Community

Share the spirit and identity of your people through a community-driven website, an interactive tour and digital storytelling. The 'My Community App' will provide your community with a voice to share your story and culture with the world using digital media.

The App is optimized for all devices and functions as a website and app that includes photos, videos and written content of the people and places in your traditional territory. Highlight your territory on a customized interactive amp that shares information about your culture, history, significant sites and Elders' stories in a dynamic format. The end result is a living museum for your community accessible for generations to come. 

The Youth, Elders and everyone in between will have the opportunity to have their voices heard while discovering the importance of their culture through digital storytelling. The focus will be on the’ Youth; they are the new generation who in the near future will set direction, make decisions, and pass along their own knowledge and experience to generations following. The My Community App will give the Youth a voice and venue to enrich their culture and share their vision for the future.

Receive up to $10,000 in funding through the Cultural Preservation Initiative (CPI). CPI funding could include the completion of an on-site assessment, plus the creation of a detailed proposal and funding application(s) to develop the 'My Community App'.

Contact Jessica now to apply - 1-877-444-5550 - jessica@cesclients.com. 

Time is limited - must call before July 5th, 2013. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

CES' New Intern: Evelyn Poitras

Well, this is my first blog and my second day at CES.  CES was initially the acronym for Canadian Eco-tourism Services but has evolved to simply being the name for this organization which offers community development services particularly targeting Indigenous communities.  My first introduction to CES was as an elected Councillor for my band Peepeekisis, Saskatchewan in 2010.  I came across an opportunity to apply for free services related to potential tourism opportunities and this was the beginning of a friendship with Amanda Huculak of CES who eventually came to visit us on Peepeekisis.  Who knew that I would come to be a field placement intern with CES in 2013 as a Master’s student at the University of Winnipeg?

I am sitting in an architect office building on McDermot this beautiful (finally summer) morning where CES also has their offices.  My mother has texted me just now to say “nitanis, miwasin wayawitimihk, ayikisak nikamowak, kisahikitin”.  My daughter, it is beautiful outside, the frogs are singing, I love you.  April was the frog moon month and she had trusted that they would be thawed out and singing by the end of the month...and then we had this snowstorm!  On my recent visit home, I truly appreciated the song of the frogs. 

I am Cree and Saulteaux (Ojibway, Cree, French mix) from the Treaty 4 Territory.  My mother is from Onion Lake on the Alberta/Saskatchewan border in the Treaty 6 Territory and her first language is Cree.  Despite the Indian Residential School experience, my mother retained her language and is still a Cree teacher today.  In Winnipeg, I am visiting Treaty 1 Territory which is home to the Anishinaabe (Ojibway) mainly.  My ancestors are also French and Metis with their own proud history very much part of this historic city and the Red River.  It is a special place for me to visit.  I plan to be here for two years for my Master’s studies.    

I was mindful of my mother in the marketing exercise I just did with Amanda and Jessica DeGrave, my supervisor. . . oh wait, its time for lunch and a nice walk to Market Square with Amanda.  What beautiful old buildings in this city.  Back from lunch! . . . The marketing exercise was an opportunity for me to be self-conscious as a nehiyaw iskwew, an Indian woman.   To share is validating and empowering- it is responsibility and celebration.  Our circles are virtual today.  Our youth will take their rightful places in these circles.  Like the frogs in spring, they will sing and it will be a beautiful sound...and like my mother, we have waited patiently and faithfully to hear this song.

Tourism is basically about visiting and sharing.  First Nations, Aboriginal, Indian...people love visiting.  Socializing and our social fabric is a very important part of who we are.  And it is also a very important protocol to share.  Gift-giving can be sacred particularly when it is related to reciprocity- we never simply take something, we must always give back in the circle of life.  Storytelling is part of survival.  Language is ‘a gift of the Creator given to us to communicate with the Creator and all of creation, everything given to us to survive as Indian people’...I recall those words from late Harold Cardinal, a wonderful leader for all of us.  Language is our kinship and place in the world- all our relations- which tells us who we are and who we have always been- extremely critical and powerful knowledge especially today.

In our fast paced lives and growing technology, visiting is almost a lost art.  I am guilty of this also.  Cocooning at home in a blanket of technology/entertainment is a great comfort at times.  But I also think of elders from my community who I wished to visit.  It is not always easy to do, sometimes this can be challenging.  The hard lessons are that we can lose these elders very suddenly.  I learned that lesson once and it lit a fire under me to make sure that I followed through to talk to others no matter how hard or challenging this could be.  I still remember kokum, grandmother, and know that her gift to me was inspiration to make sure that I went on to do my work.  Today I treasure those memories, those visits with many elders.  As a filmmaker, this is now my legacy. 

My mother and father’s generation loved to visit.  What is more, they expected this.  If you did not visit, this could hurt someone’s feelings.  I recall campaigning at home and this opportunity to visit.  One elder kept me for a four hour visit- one hour for every year of my term, he said with a big smile.  I lost my political race at that time but certainly could not regret any time I spent with members from my community visiting at that time- hours of tea and coffee drinking, much laughter, stories, history sharing, a little gossiping and teasing.  Today I feel much privilege to remember how I was welcomed into so many homes and treated so kindly with great hospitality.  We shared concern, hope, love for our families, and pride for our community, our home.

I am reminded of the movie “Julia and Julie”.  It’s a great foodie movie but also a true story about a blogger who wrote about her odyssey through the Julia Child’s revolutionary cookbook on French cooking.  The blogger challenged herself to cook her way through these recipes in one year.  She started off rather obscure but ended with great acclaim and many blog followers.  So, dear blog readers, what may come of this obscure blog beginning?  One thing is that you will learn about CES through my experience.  And one thing is also sure...like Julia Child, you can never have enough butter...but like my blog, if you don’t have butter, and even if you do, try lard or bacon grease on your bannock.   

Evelyn Poitras