The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

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Indigenous song keepers reveal traditional ecological knowledge in music

Much of this post was re-posted from “The Canadian Press

This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site — it has been condensed to meet word parameters.

Authors: Dana Lepofsky, Professor in Archaeology, Simon Fraser University; Alvaro Fernandez-Llamazares, Researcher in Ethnecology, Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS), University of Helsinki, and Oqwilowgwa Kim Recalma-Clutesi, Contributor to the special issue on Ethnobiology Through Song/CEO Ninogaad Knowledge Keepers Foundation/BOD APTN

Academics are just beginning to see the deep significance of traditional songs and the knowledge they carry and some are working with Indigenous collaborators to unlock their teachings.

In many Indigenous cultures, songs recount detailed biocultural knowledge and documents responsibilities.

Kwaxsistalla Wathl’thla was a trained Clan Chief, held four pa’sa chieftain seats, and among many other roles, was the keeper of hundreds of songs about the Kwakwaka’wakw people and more.

Potlatching was banned until 1951 and as a result, singing potlatch songs was a source of punishment and fear for many generations.

As one born to nobility and chosen since birth to be a conduit of key cultural knowledge, Kwaxsistalla Wathl’thla let us hear the words of his ancestors through the many songs he remembered.

For instance, in 2002, he revealed an ancient ya’a (Dog Children song) that unlocked the mystery of lokiwey (clam gardens) on the Pacific Northwest Coast. Cultivating clams in clam gardens — rock walled terraces in the lower intertidal — is a widespread practice among Coastal First Nations. We now know this practice is at least 3,500 years old.

Kwaxsistalla Wathl’thla’s sharing of this clam garden song unleashed a wave of research on traditional management practices and helped not only awaken people’s understanding of indigenous knowledge, but also the foundation for research on how to improve clam management.

Kwaxsistalla Wathl’thla went on to mentor as the primary source on traditional ecological knowledge for over a dozen graduate students in ethnobiology and linguistics until his passing.

Despite the immense global value of traditional songs as libraries of ecological and other cultural knowledge, researchers and the general public have been slow to recognize their social and cultural importance.

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Live Streamed Lecture by Vandana Shiva

Arts-Vandana Shiva poster

Internationally renowned eco-feminist, philosopher, and activist Vandana Shiva will be paying a visit to Winnipeg this weekend, and while her ticketed event is now sold out, local organizers have arranged an alternate, free live-streamed teach-in.

Shiva will be speaking to a group of paying attendees on the evening of March 28 as part of the “Fragile Freedoms” lecture series, presented by the University of Manitoba’s centre for professional and applied ethics, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and the CBC.

On March 29, Shiva will be giving a lecture about Earth democracy from 90 Sinclair Street, which will be broadcast as a live-streamed teach-in to other locations across Canada, including a secondary location in Winnipeg.

The organizers of this event state that “there is no lecture hall or community centre with the capacity to hold everyone who should hear her inspirational and empowering message,” which is why they are offering this free, live-streamed event “in the spirit of decentralized knowledge-sharing and radical self-education.”

The notion of radical education, and radical self-education, is part of a larger movement to create spaces of knowledge-sharing outside of formal educational structures.

British scholar David Hicks believes that in its current form education “inevitably reproduces the social, political and economic norms of the dominant ideology. In the west this is capitalist, technocratic, individualistic, materialist, and patriarchal.”

In contrast to the Fragile Freedoms event, the teach-in on March 29 is free, and organizers of the second Winnipeg location—the University of Winnipeg Womyn’s Centre and the Women’s and Gender Studies Students’ Association—are attempting to make it as accessible as possible.

Free snacks, coffee, tea, bus tickets, and childminding are all offered as part of the event. It’s also being offered in a wheelchair accessible room in proximity to accessible washrooms.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the concept of Earth democracy, organizers of the teach-in provide a definition to use as a starting point before hearing Shiva’s thoughts: “Earth democracy is the worldview that we as humans can be part of a healthy planet, but we must take action to protect peace and swaraj (sovereignty) for all living beings: Let us learn about our right to water, our right to seed and to food, and our right to life.”

Join in the live-streamed teach-in at 7:00 p.m. on March 29 at room 2M70 at the University of Winnipeg.

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Haida People’s Rogue Geoengineering Project Condemned by Scientists

NPR’s Morning Edition recently grappled with the issue of geoengineering.  The program discussed the Haida people’s 2012 attempt to bring salmon back to their waters, by using iron dust to create an algae bloom, and the scientific community’s response to it.

In the summer of 2012, a small group of the Haida people, a native community in Canada, had a problem. The salmon they rely on were disappearing. So the Haida took matters into their own hands.
They partnered with an American businessman, drew up plans and then took a boat full of iron dust into the waters off their home island and put the dust in the ocean.
When they spread the iron dust, it created a big algae bloom. They hoped the algae would soak up carbon dioxide and bring back the fish.
The reaction to the experiment was immediate and negative, and described by some media as the “world’s first rogue geoengineering project.”
While it scared a lot of people and angered a lot of scientists, this event could be a sign of what’s to come. Some very mainstream scientists are saying the climate change situation is so bad that saving life as we know it might require something radical: like shooting chemicals into the stratosphere to protect Earth from the sun. In essence, these scientists are talking about hacking the climate.

To learn more on this topic you may want to check out Matthew Watson’s blog the reluctant geoengineer.

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Get Ready for Co-op Week

Donna Balkan of the Canadian Cooperative Association encourages “Canadian Co-operators to get ready for Co-op Week.”

October 13-19 is Co-op Week in Canada, a time for co-op members and employees to highlight the contributions of co-operatives to Canadian society and to promote the co-operative business model to the broader community.  The week is timed to coincide with International Credit Union Day (October 17), which has been marked on the third Thursday in October since 1948.
Co-operatives all over the country are holding special activities during the week, including conferences, receptions, banquets, co-op tours, flag-raisings, employee events and even a co-op curling bonspiel. A number of Canadian newspapers, including the prestigious Globe and Mail, are running special features on co-operatives during the week, and politicians frequently highlight Co-op Week in the House of Commons and provincial legislatures. 
The theme of  Co-op Week 2013 is “A Better Way”, positioning co-operatives as an effective and sustainable alternative to other business models. (In French, the theme is “Coopérer pour un monde meilleur”, which translates as “Co-operating for a better world.”)



Stop Nestlé from Stealing

Nestlé is taking 265 million liters of fresh Canadian water every year to bottle and sell off around the world — and it does not pay a penny.

At a time when water is in short supply around the world, it is outrageous that Nestlé can draw limitless amounts of our natural resources to sell for a huge profit. Nestlé’s chairman says that “extremist” NGOs are responsible for the idea that water is a human right, and that water should have a market price — all while paying nothing to Canada.

Nestlé gets away with this due to a lack of proper regulation in the province of British Columbia (BC), Canada. With public outcry growing, the government says it’s considering a public consultation on the issue — but hasn’t committed to any immediate action. Canada promotes itself to the world as a clean, untrammelled wilderness travel destination, and it cares about its reputation. Together, we can push the Canadian government to stop Nestle’s greedy water grab.

Let’s stand with Canadians and tell the government: enact laws so companies like Nestlé must pay to extract our most precious resource — our water.

Nestlé draws water from the same aquifer as thousands of Canadian residents near Hope, BC — and many of the residents who rely on the water are concerned. “We have water that’s so clean and so pure, it’s amazing. And then they take it and sell it back to us in plastic bottles,” said one resident. This freeloading by Nestlé is even more outrageous at a time when many parts of the world are facing extreme water shortage.

This isn’t the first time members of the community have spoken out against Nestlé extracting Canadian water with no consideration other than profit. Earlier this year, more than 140,000 of you spoke out about Nestlé sucking up water from a Canadian watershed during droughts. Thankfully, the Council of Canadians and Ecojustice won their tribunal ruling against Nestlé and the Ontario government office, and the water company can no longer extract water during drought conditions. Now we need to speak out to take this victory against Nestlé to BC, too.

Let’s call on the government to stop allowing Nestlé and other corporate freeloaders from extracting our water for free.



Cuba – World Leader in Sustainable, Organic Farming

This is Part one of  Marcella Pedersen’s five part series on her trip to Cuba.  As someone who is interested in all kinds of farming, Pedersen made it a priority to visit Cuba’s organic sustainable farms.  In this article she provides a little history on how and why organic farms were established and what makes Cuba a world leader in organic, sustainable agriculture.  If you are interested in continuing with the series, you can find it here.

 - Cuban farmers take a multi-faceted approach to pest control, while reducing reliance on expensive pesticides. - Photo submittedCuba is a world leader in sustainable organic farming and, as I am interested in all types of farming, I wanted to see for myself how farmers were managing to thrive in Cuba. The trip was organized by Wendy Holm who had connections with ANAP and co-operatives in Cuba.
For a little background and understanding of Cuban history and challenges, the following is from a website on Cuban sustainable organic farming. I couldn’t say it any better or shorter.
“Cuba was once dependent on imports from the Soviet Union for a large percentage of staple goods as well as fertilizers, pesticides, animal feed and petroleum. The farms were large, high-input industrial farms, many of which grew cash crops in monocultures for export.
“When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, Cuba was plunged into a severe economic crisis, where imports of food and other basic necessities, including pesticides and chemical fertilizers, fell overnight. Within a year the country lost over 80% of its foreign trade, which compounded by ongoing US embargos, triggered widespread hunger and malnutrition in what was known as Cuba’s “special period”. Without infrastructure or fuel to transport goods from rural to urban areas, the cities had no way of feeding themselves. The crisis spurred the government into action: switched from the export of cash crops to growing food crops for domestic consumption; mobilizing resources and putting the urban wastelands into use as farms and orchards; offered incentives to encourage people to move back to rural areas to work on the land; and changed many state farms to co-operatives. Continue reading


Sundance Ceremony To Be Openly Celebrated in 2014

This post seems to have caused some concern about the 2014 Sundance Ceremony being televised.  Joe Morales Sundance Chief sent the following message:

Hello, this is Joe Morales Sundance Chief and Grand Governing Council member of the American Indian Movement. “Openly” means without fear or shame. 2014 Sundance or any other AIM Sundance will not be televised nor will there be any filming or picture allowed during Ceremony. Hope this clarifies things.

In The First Perspective, Terry Nelson writes about the conflicting opinions in the Native American community about televising the Sundance ceremony.  His piece documents the history of the ceremony’s secrecy and concludes, ” We owe it to the youth to throw off the fear, to openly celebrate what has been retained by the sacrifices of many generations who held on to the songs, to the ceremonies and we in our turn need to keep those gifts for future generations. “

Recently, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (Indigenous people’s national television in Canada) did a story on the Sundance and the airing of the ceremony caused not only some controversy but death threats against David Blacksmith the main person at the Sundance in Manitoba who allowed a television crew into the area. David Blacksmith is Cree, a man who has been sober for decades, a man who has worked with the spiritual side of our people since he was in his early twenties. Blacksmith attended the recent AIM Sundance in Pipestone Minnesota. Also in attendance at the AIM Sundance at Pipestone Minnesota was Leonard Crowdog. Continue reading

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Contemporary Canadian Poets Revert to Traditional Forms

Toronto writer Barbara Gray reviews three new books of poetry that harken back to traditional forms:

Toronto poet laureate George Elliott Clarke’s Illicit Sonnets is loosely modeled on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese, her celebrated series of uber-romantic poems addressed to fellow poet (and eventual husband) Robert Browning. However, Clarke’s sensibilities are far from those of his Victorian predecessor. As he puts it in the first poem, ‘These poems are about her, naked, and I, nude./I’m not flaccid, and she’s no prude.’ Continue reading

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Vancouver Colleges New Program Recycles Organic Waste

Jaqueline Wong reports on a new recycling program at Vancouver Community College’s culinary programs and campus cafes that reduces organic wastes ending up in landfills.

Food scraps and expired products are now being collected and transferred to a ranch near Lytton, 250 kilometers northeast of Vancouver, by the B.C.-owned Northwest Organics, said Wendy Avis, VCC manager, environment and sustainability.
The recycling program started in April.
VCC is now promoting the program at its two campuses.
‘We will collect compost and combine it with the organic wastes.’ Avis said.
Since 2010, VCC has been carbon neutral. No bottled water has been sold at its campuses since 2012 and around 1,300 gallons of organic waste from the schools is diverted from landfills weekly. It has also been exploring ways to grow organic food on campus. Continue reading

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The Great Laws of Nature: Indigenous Organic Agriculture Documentary

A group of First Nations People in Saskatchewan Canada are reclaiming their Indigenous organic and natural agricultural heritage, reconnecting with Nature, learning and observing her natural laws, and getting back on the road to self-reliance. This video is presented here courtesy of Muskoday Organic Growers Co-op.. If you want to purchase a copy of this video please contact the producers through this link: