The Indigenous organization Plenty Canada, which is currently supporting the launch of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network as the official convener of the UNESCO Niagara Escarpment Biosphere, presents this critically important session dedicated to sustaining this broadly forested land area that boasts the highest level of species diversity among Canadian biospheres, including more than 300 bird species, 55 mammals, 36 reptiles and amphibians, 90 fish, and 100 varieties of special interest flora. 

Numerous environmental crises are emerging today that are being witnessed and felt by the public. AS over 500 forest fires have raged across Canada this year choking lungs as far south as the United States and as far east as southern Europe, to the deadly fungal disease Oak Wilt which is heading north toward Canada devastating forests, these and other climate change influenced events are challenging our notions of basic environmental sustainability. In Niagara and up and down the UNESCO designated Niagara Escarpment Biosphere, and across a wide sector of informed conservation, education, and environmental groups, a broad movement is being formed that seeks to incorporate Indigenous value systems while promoting the establishment of co-governance models within organizations working to address these problems. With the Bruce Trail Conservancy, Brock University, Niagara College, and others the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network continues its launch event from last year to engage with the public at this session designed to gather input, support research, and outline the needs for data collection for the UNESCO Periodic Review.

As in other parts of the world, significant progress is also required to ensure the sustainability of the UNESCO designated Niagara Escarpment Biosphere, that runs west from Niagara, and then north to Tobermory, extending some 700+ kilometres. Over the past year, sessions have been held with Indigenous nations on Manitoulin Island, where there exists a interest in linking to or extending the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere, and with conservation, environmental, and educational groups throughout the Niagara Escarpment corridor.

The Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network operates under the principles of Two-Eyed Seeing and Indigenous co-governance to establish a worldview and operational decisions that incorporate the strengths of Indigenous knowledge and Western knowledge. Supporting organization Plenty Canada features on its Board of Directors the esteemed Elder Albert Marshall, who with his wife Murdena, were the proponents of the cross-cultural understanding known as Etuaptmumk, or Two-Eyed Seeing.

Click here to download the PDF program

Jim Hill

Jim Hill, who grew up in Niagara attending schools with a War of 1812 theme, Merritton High School and Brock University, started working at historic sites with a similar theme in 1985. For over thirty years, Jim has worked for Parks Canada, the Friends of Fort George and for most of his career, the Niagara Parks Commission. He started with the Commission in 1996 and developed the Native interpretive programme at Old Fort Erie in an effort to add depth to the story of this important National Historic Site. Jim has been a regular contributor to local newspapers and historic journals. He is currently the Superintendent of Heritage for Niagara Parks, a position he has held since 2005. Jim led the efforts to enhance the historic sites of the Commission in anticipation of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and coordinated the largest reenactments and commemorations during the bicentennial years. In his capacity as Superintendent, he assisted with the planning and unveiling of the Landscape of Nations Commemorative Memorial on Queenston Heights. Jim recently retired from the Reserve Army after thirty years as a Gunner, Sergeant, and finally a Captain with the Royal Canadian Artillery. He still holds a pilot’s license from his time as an Air Cadet and lives with his wife Jeannie and son Jack in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Karl Dockstader

Karl Dockstader, Oneida Bear Clan, is active in One Dish, One Spoon territories as an advocate for Indigenous peoples. He co-hosts the hit radio program One Dish, One Mic that airs in Niagara, London, Windsor, and Hamilton. Karl is a Bell Media radio news rotating talk show host on 610 CKTB’s “The Drive” airing weekdays from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. In addition to radio work, Karl has done TV work with CTV News Channel, appeared as a regular panellist on the politics show CTV Power Play for the 2021-2022 season, and done freelance work including having earned CBC and Canadaland by-lines. 

As a self-described “Friendship Centre baby” Karl had the honour to serve as Executive Director of the Niagara Regional Native Centre for two years. This work followed four years of frontline community work with Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre. Karl loves grassroots initiatives, is unafraid to take bold stances on matters that affect First Nations peoples, and has used art, communication, and podcasting to support community goal achievement.


Larry McDermott

Larry McDermott, Algonquin, is Executive Director of Plenty Canada, an Indigenous non-government organization devoted to the protection of Mother Earth, building healthy communities, and promoting cross-cultural awareness of the value of Indigenous ways of knowing to achieve a sustainable environment for future generations. He is also a board member of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network. A former three-time Mayor and long-time council member of Lanark Highlands, Chair of the Rural Forum of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Larry is a member of numerous organizations including the International Indigenous Forum for Biodiversity, the Ontario Species at Risk Public Advisory Committee, the Canadian Environmental Network, UNESCO, and the Ontario Recovery Strategy for the American Eel. Larry also has served as a comprehensive claim representative for Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation, is a certified tree marker and butternut assessor, and holds other environmental certifications. He lives in a 170-year-old log home on 500 acres of biologically diverse Algonquin land along the Mississippi River.

Liette Vasseur

Liette Vasseur, board member of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network, is a full professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Brock University, where she is a member of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre. She previously held the UNESCO Chair on Community Sustainability. Her research is interdisciplinary and links issues such as community-based ecosystem management, climate change adaptation and resilience, and sustainable agriculture. Her climate change adaptation research program encompasses different ecosystems from the rural community of Lincoln, Indigenous communities of San Juan, and in the Chimborazo, Ecuador. She is Honorary President of the Canadian Commission UNESCO and deputy chair and vice-chair for North America of the Commission for Ecosystem Management with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and co-lead of the thematic group on Climate Change and Biodiversity Policy and Practice.

Michael McDonald

Michael McDonald is the Chief Executive Officer for the Bruce Trail Conservancy – named Canada’s Top Environmental Charity by Maclean’s and MoneySense in 2020. After a 23-year successful career in the private sector, Michael combined his business acumen with his love for people and passion for conservation. Michael works towards protecting natural spaces and stewarding the Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest and longest public footpath. Michael is a proud graduate of McMaster University, formerly achieved the rank of Private in the Canadian Armed Forces (reserves), and is a certified hike leader in Ontario. Michael is a lover of nature, and deeply values people’s personal connections to natural environments.

Patrick Robson

Patrick Robson, MCIP, RPP, is president and chair of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network. He holds a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Urban & Regional Planning from Ryerson and a Master of Arts in Politics from Brock University, and is currently a professor of Environmental Studies at Niagara College, teaching in the Environmental Management and Assessment and the Ecosystem Restoration post-grad programs, as well as the Environmental Field and Lab Tech program. In March 2017, he was appointed to the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority (a.k.a. Peace Bridge Authority). His past work life has included private sector planning consultant work, a planner with the Niagara Escarpment Commission, an investigator with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and several progressive positions at Niagara Region, including Commissioner of Integrated Community Planning. Highlights of planning initiatives that have garnered awards include developing and then implementing the urban and Brownfield redevelopment regime known as Smarter Niagara Incentives Program, the Niagara Gateway Economic Zone Incentives Program, cross-border planning efforts in the Binational Niagara area, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative planning support, and progressive policies related to agricultural viability. He and his wife Kelly are also hop farmers.

He served three terms as a Councillor in Wainfleet, Ontario and has taught Public Policy at Brock University. He has also presented at numerous conferences regarding land-use and sustainability issues across Canada, in the U.S. (including one at the Library of Congress), Germany, The Netherlands, Japan, and South Africa.

Volunteer life includes having served on the Board of YMCA Niagara and is currently a member of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Transition Leadership Committee, the Indigenous Planning Advisory Committee of the Ontario Professional Planning Institute, as well as on the Board of the Golden Horseshoe Food & Farming Alliance. 

Steve Barnhart

Steve Barnhart, M.L.A., OALA has over 20 years’ experience in Environmental planning and design with the last 18 years in public sector landscape architecture. He is currently a senior executive with the Niagara Parks Commission responsible for the organization’s environmental planning and stewardship, cultural heritage, and landscape design. Steve oversees the development policy and planning strategy to delivery on the organization’s mandate of environmental and cultural stewardship for the Niagara River corridor. Prior to Niagara Parks Steve was with the City of Hamilton and responsible for Park Planning and implementation of open space capital projects and managing forestry and horticulture. Steve has worked on a wide range of projects including master plans, heritage restoration sites, coastal wetland rehabilitation, waterfront development, transportation, storm water management systems and visual impact assessments, and provided expert witness testimony at the Environmental Review Tribunal. Steve is a registered Landscape Architect with the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects since 2000 and currently serving as the association’s president. Steve graduated with a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Guelph and with a Bachelor of Earth Science from the University of Waterloo. In 2016 Steve received the OALA Public Practice Award.


Ellen Savoia

Ellen Savoia grew up in Prince George British Columbia, on Lheidli T’enneh First Nation territory. Ellen attended Fanshawe College, completing a landscape design diploma before attaining an Environment Studies degree from University of Waterloo. She recently retired from a career as a land use and parks planner, most recently with Niagara Parks. Since retiring Ellen volunteered with Niagara Bruce Trail Club maintaining a section of the trail, as well as sitting on their board as Vice President. When not on a trail, Ellen can be found gardening, in her sewing room or reading.

Tim Johnson

Tim Johnson is senior advisor for Heritage and Legacy at the Niagara Parks Commission, senior advisor to the national Indigenous organization Plenty Canada, senior Indigenous curatorial advisor to the Royal Ontario Museum, Indigenous advisor on museums, heritage, and legacy to Lord Cultural Resources, artistic director of The Great Niagara Escarpment Indigenous Cultural Map, and conceptual author and executive producer of the multiple award-winning documentary RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked The World. He also holds board memberships with several organizations, including the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network, Niagara Peninsula Aspiring Geopark, Bruce Trail Conservancy, Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and the Shaw Festival. 

Tim has been instrumental in the development of several distinguished masterworks of public art in the Niagara Region during the past eight years. These consist of public memorials of national significance that recognize and honour Indigenous peoples’ contributions to Canada. The first, Landscape of Nations: The Six Nations and Native Allies Commemorative Memorial, was unveiled in Queenston Heights Park in 2016. The second, First Nations Peace Monument, designed by world-renowned architect Douglas Cardinal, was established in DeCew House Heritage Park in Thorold in 2017. A third, arriving in 2024 will be Sho’aríshon (He is Shaking a Net): Neutral Nation Park in the Town of Lincoln. And currently underway as a fourth public park memorial is the development of an Indigenous legacy space at Waverly Park in the Town of Fort Erie.

Tim also served on the committee and sub-committee for design and construction for Voices of Freedom Park, a public art installation dedicated in 2018 in Niagara-on-the-Lake to African Canadians whose contributions to the Niagara Region and Canada have been significant, but largely underrepresented. In addition, he was instrumental in defining the criteria and guiding the curatorial selection of a contemporary art masterpiece by Lilly Otasevic, entitled Curtain Call, newly installed in 2019 on the Carlisle Street side of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre as a legacy project of Celebration of Nations and the City of St. Catharines.

In his current role as senior Indigenous curatorial advisor to the Royal Ontario Museum Tim served as guest curator for the exhibit, Tusarnitut (Sound Pleasing to the Ear): Music Born of the Cold, and is working to refresh the ROM’s First Peoples Gallery. He also recently opened two other exhibits, Misko-Aki (Red Earth): Confluence of Cultures at the Muskoka Discovery Centre, and the Indigenous elements of Journey Behind the Falls for the Niagara Parks Commission.

As the former Associate Director for Museum Programs at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, Tim managed the museum’s largest organizational group across its facilities in Washington and New York. A long list of critically acclaimed exhibits and programs were produced during his tenure, creating an era that significantly advanced the institution’s museology and reputation. Over the course of his work at the Smithsonian Tim edited, conceptualized, and strategically initiated several Smithsonian books showcasing Indigenous art and history. He also established the museum’s Indigenous Community Services department and was co-founder and publisher of the museum’s flagship quarterly membership magazine American Indian, now in its third decade of publication.

Tim successfully developed numerous exhibits ranging in cost from $15,000 to $5.65 million representing myriad orientations from ethnography and history to contemporary art. One of his most popular exhibitions, Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians In Popular Culture, was an art and history exhibit as told through the biographies of Native artists whose contributions shaped popular music soundtracks since the early 20th Century. As follow up to that exhibit Tim served as a conceptual author and executive producer of the Sundance Film Festival, Hot Docs, and Canadian Academy of Cinema and Television Award-winning documentary RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked the World.

Among his many highly successful Smithsonian programs was the museum’s Mother Earth Festival, curated and implemented in conjunction with Al Gore’s global Live Earth initiative held on July 7, 2007, which diffused American Indian knowledge and scientific evidence concerning environmental sustainability to thousands in attendance and millions watching around the world. Produced to enhance public education about human induced climate change, it stands as one of the Smithsonian Institution’s most widely viewed public programs. Now an annual event renamed the Living Earth Festival, it continues to bring together scientists, renewable energy technologists, tribal resource managers, educators, and cultural performers and exhibitors. As a leading figure who brought the reality and ramifications of climate change to the forefront in America’s capital, Tim also served on the executive committee of the Smithsonian’s ‘Living in the Anthropocene Initiative,’ a pan-institutional committee formed to advance public education about climate change and the implications of human conduct on the planet.Active with several prestigious education, arts, and journalism institutions for nearly four decades, Tim received the Dreamcatcher Foundation Award for Art and Culture in 2016. He recently directed the development of Empathic Traditions: Niagara’s Indigenous Legacy, an online exhibition of the Niagara Falls History Museum’s Indigenous collections. Since leaving the Smithsonian he has dedicated himself to creating legacy projects that educate the public about the Indigenous experience.

September 10 @ 14:00
2:00 pm — 3:30 pm

Patrick Robson, Michael McDonald, Liette Vasseur, Jim Hill, Karl Dockstader, Larry McDermott, Ellen Savoia, Steve Barnhart, Tim Johnson

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