Community makes connections at celebration of research
By Sue Tiffin
Published March 29, 2018
An afternoon devoted to the annual U-Links Celebration of Research became an afternoon of making connections for the students who studied the county, local community partners who helped to initiate the research, as well as for the curious guests at the event who caught up with each other and had the chance to directly ask researchers questions about the outcomes of projects.
The Trent University students engaged in the community-based research class connected to the community through the study of diverse topics, in partnership with community groups and organizations in Haliburton County that reflect issues and topics that are important here.
For Places for People, a tenant support evaluation; for the Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners’ Associations, a shorelines biophysical naturalization assessment; for The Land Between, a look at land knowledge circles; for planet Haliburton and Environment Haliburton!, a climate change attitudes study. Brittany Pedersen and Monique Sheehan looked at the possibility of green cemeteries for the Municipality of Highlands East, and presented their findings on the value and feasibility of more environmentally sound burial practices. Viyanka Suthaskaran and Breanna Webber completed an analysis and mapping of transportation needs in Haliburton County project for the Haliburton County Transportation Taskforce.
“We found the biggest transportation gaps, and who had the biggest issues travelling, so which age groups, what locations people couldn’t get to,” said Webber at the event held at the Minden hospital auditorium on March 24.
She said the research pair were approached by people at the event who had questions about what transportation program might be put in place based on their research and also suggestions.
At one point at the event, they were connected to someone who had filled out their survey, and on the ride to Minden, they were able to see the communities they had looked into.
“The drive up, we’re going through these counties that we’ve seen on the map and were talking about in surveys and to actually be able to see it was a very good experience,” said Webber. “It’s great being able to see how happy [people here] are that something is being done.”
Webber said the experiential learning aspect of the project was helpful in connecting with the work world.
“It’s very hands-on,” she said. “My aunt actually suggested doing this over a thesis because you get to work hands on with other people, you get to perfect communication skills, you deal with people directly. It’s a lot more work-based experience than you get just being in school, and this experience before graduating and going into the working field is invaluable.”
One of the highlights of the celebration, for many, was the work done by David Beaucage Johnson for the Haliburton Highlands Museum and Municipality of Dysart et al.
Beaucage Johnson presented on the history of indigenous habitation in Haliburton County, and though he joked he might go on forever if he didn’t stick to his script, many in the crowd would have been OK with that.
The project was suggested when Kate Butler, museum director, said she was looking to fill a gap in the way that aspect of history is presented at the museum and hoped for a look at the county’s Indigenous past, as told by someone with Indigenous roots.
“It has only been in the culmination of life experience and association with others where I finally feel that I can pull together concept connections and relationships enough to make a starting point for discussing the Indigenous habitation of Haliburton County (Gidaaki),” said Beaucage Johnson after the event.
His presentation helped listeners understand a largely untold history of the county through his work in discussions with elders and uncovering historical interviews and maps, some which elicited audible gasps from the crowd. He discussed evidence of Indigenous habitation in the form of a cairn in Haliburton Forest, and trail marker trees (Miikan Tig) which some people recognized from their hikes in the area.
“I think it is an opportunity for the Highlanders to get reintroduced to a people who were once flat-mates and are now neighbours,” he said. “What it has meant to me is having the capacity to offer a meaningful historical perspective that shows how much influence the aboriginal people have had in the county when seemingly there is not a lot of ‘corporate memory’ of their presence. It has shown me that even though we do not have a high profile, that can change when the right people get involved. I don’t mean me. I mean the people that came up to at the presentation and told me that they live or cottage on the lakes and have found stone and copper artifacts there. I was also not surprised that several people came to me to report that they know where the trail marker trees are. People know the trees because they are unusual. They just don’t know what the tree means unless someone lets them know how important and special they are.”
Beaucage Johnson said the research as he and Butler had planned evolved as more information came to light.
“I intended to present the interesting things that I have found over the years in combination with what I was finding online and from the museum, including reports by archaeologist Tom Ballantyne,” he said, after the Celebration of Research event.
“After the first newspaper article by Jenn Watt of the Echo, the museum would forward emails to me from people who had amazing knowledge that extended, broadened and deepened my own findings. It was astounding.”
The researcher – who took a photo of the audience before his presentation so he could prove to his friends the interest in his work – was also surprised by the enthusiastic response to his findings, and was steadily engaged by a people in the community who had come to the event.
“It took me a half an hour to make my way to the back to get some water and make it back to the poster for questions,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting such an overwhelming and enthusiastic response.”
Beaucage Johnson looks forward to what his project findings could mean for the county.
“I think it would be awesome for the museum and the camps to be introduced to each other to discuss the findings of the research,” he said.
More than 20 community-based research projects were presented at the Celebration of Research this year.