The Plett Foundation offers a grants program that supports research and projects relevant to its mission. Grants are evaluated and awarded semi-annually by the Foundation’s Board of Directors on the basis of their relevance to the mission of the Plett Foundation, the feasibility of the project, and the deliverable outcome of the project. Successful applications will focus on some aspect of the history of the Dutch-Russian Mennonites who came to Manitoba in the 1870s, including:
- their historical background in Russia, Poland-Prussia and the Netherlands
- their history in Manitoba and Western Canada
- the history of their descendants spread throughout the Americas
Research grants are awarded for eligible expenses related to a research project. Eligible expenses include travel costs, including relevant accommodation costs, and archival/research fees. Please contact us if you have questions about eligible expenses.
Publication grants support the publication of books that explore the experience and history of the 1870s Mennonites and their descendants.
Eligible applicants include institutions, academic researchers, individuals, and community organizations.
Applicants should complete the online application form. All required supporting materials should be submitted online, together with the online application form, by the deadline.
Next Grants Application Deadline: March 15, 2017
Complete applications will be considered by the Plett Foundation Board at its spring and fall Board meetings. All applicants will be notified regarding the outcome of their application by mail following the Board meeting. Successful applicants must present a copy of their completed projects to the Plett Foundation.
FAQsWhat types of projects does the Plett Foundation fund?
The Plett Foundation awards grants covering expenses related to research projects and publications. Eligible expenses related to a research project could include receipted travel costs, including flights, accommodations and meals, and fees associated with the work. Publication grants cover expenses related to publishing a work from the design or layout of the project to the costs associated with printing.
Are there any restrictions on eligible expenses for a project?
Except in special circumstances, Plett Foundation grants do not reimburse costs for equipment purchases, expenses related to salaries or wages for researchers or writers, or translation costs. The Foundation does not award grants for the preservation or restoration of artifacts or historical buildings. Additionally, grants are not retroactive; only expenses incurred after the date a grant is awarded will be considered eligible expenses. If grant holders have questions about eligible expenses, please contact the Foundation to discuss prior to incurring these costs.
How long can a grant be held once it is awarded?
A grant can be held by the recipient until the end of the calendar year (December 31) in which the grant was awarded.
Once a grant has been awarded, can a deadline on a project be extended?
Yes, the deadline on the project may be extended if the project will not be completed by December 31 of the year in which it was awarded. Grant holders should contact the Foundation as soon as possible to alert us of the delay in the project and to request an extension.
Can a grant be held concurrently with other grants or awards?
Yes. The application for a grant should indicate the sources of any funds or in-kind contributions. If application has been made to other funding sources, these should also be indicated. In the event that a project receives additional funding during the course of the project, the Foundation should be advised.
How are grants administered once they are awarded?
Grants are awarded to private individuals or directly to an organization. Grants to individuals are disbursed based on submitted expense receipts. Grants administered through a post-secondary institution such as a university or college, or to a recognized charitable organization may be disbursed to the organization in one lump sum.
Recipients, whether individuals or organizations, will be asked to provide interim reports to the Foundation’s Board twice annually, until the completion of the project, at which point a final report must be submitted. Additionally, we ask that two copies of any published material supported by a Plett Foundation grant be submitted to the Foundation with the final report and that the financial support of the Plett Foundation be acknowledged in any publications or promotional materials related to the project.
Recent Grant Recipients
2016Mennonite Heritage Centre, $15,000
Mennonite Heritage Centre has embarked on a project to create an index for Die Steinbach Post, a German-language newspaper published in Steinbach, Manitoba from the 1920s to 1960s. As Mennonites migrated from Canada to Latin America in the early 1920s, they took their Post subscriptions with them and so the newspaper became a transnational link, through the news stories and personal letters published in its pages, between Mennonite communities throughout the Americas. The newspaper is an important historical source and the index will help make it accessible to English-language researchers and those who can no longer read the Gothic text it was printed in. This grant supports the indexing of the Post from 1922, the first year of the Mennonite migration to Mexico.
Filmmaker Paul Plett (Ode Productions) is producing a documentary that explores the lives of seven Mennonite farming communities around the world in Manitoba, Iowa, Bolivia, the Netherlands, Zimbabwe, Siberia, and Java. In each community, the documentary will follow a week in the life of a Mennonite farmer to explore how they live and work, who they are, and how they came to be where they are. By juxtaposing these farmers and their communities against one another, the documentary will contribute to a better understanding of the story of Mennonites and agriculture, but also a deeper appreciation for the food that we eat and the farmers that produce it. This grant supports the travel and filming in Bolivia and Manitoba, locations with connections to the 1870s Mennonites.
The Evangelical Mennonite Conference has a valuable historical photo collection of well over 7,000 images dating back many decades. In the past, this collection has been sorted, organized, and numbered by a volunteer archivist and metadata has been entered into a database for each photo, including date, location, name of photographer, occasion and names of people in the photograph. This grant supports this project of scanning the photos in the collection, relating the scans to the metadata, and submitting the results to the Mennonite Archival Image Database (MAID) so it may be accessible by the public. The scans will be done by a professional company (photoscanning.ca) and a summer student will be hired to arrange the scanning, match the resulting scans with the metadata, and arrange for the transfer of the tagged images to MAID.
2015Mennonite Historical Society of Canada, $4,700
This grant supports the Mennonite Archival Image Database (MAID), an online database of photos from Mennonite archives, created by the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada in partnership with the Plett Foundation and Mennonite historical societies and archives across Canada. The funds from this grant will be used to provide advisory services to MAID partners. The MAID advisor will spend a number of days with volunteers in partner archives, providing training and support on using the MAID database (http://archives.mhsc.ca/).
This grant is in support of the one-day interactive workshop “Still/Moving: Stories of Low German-Speaking (Dietsche) Mennonite Women,” hosted by the Southwestern Ontario Research of Mennonite Women group in summer 2016. The workshop will: further knowledge about Low German-speaking women in order to more fully understand “Dietsch” culture in the tensive connection between stillness/moving and preservation/innovation; honour the strength and resilience of Mennonite women who have migrated from Latin America to Canada and recognize their contributions to local communities and their families; facilitate connection and collaboration between researchers, practitioners, and community members in order to nurture relationships, inform professional practice, and inspire research; and showcase the work of community partners and local businesses. The workshop will incorporate a range of media and learning approaches including presentations of academic papers, storytelling, art, cooking, quilting, round table discussions, and learning circles.
Plett Foundation funds will support the efforts of the Christian Mennonite Conference (formerly known as the Chortitzer Mennonite Conference) in organizing, digitizing, and preparing the Bergthal Colony/Chortitzer Waisenamt archival materials for storage and preservation at the Mennonite Heritage Centre. This is a unique collection of archival documents containing significant amounts of material from the Bergthal Colony (Russia), one document dated 1812 from the Chortitza Colony, detailed records of the Chortitza Waisenamt, and the original 1873 letter (often referred to as the “Privilegium”) from the Canadian government official John Lowe, along with the German translation, which outlined privileges offered to the Mennonites settling in Canada. Funds will be used to cover project costs and provide professional conservation work on the 1873 letter from John Lowe.
This grant supports the publication of A Community Steps Up: The Bethesda Foundation Story, to be published by the Bethesda Foundation on the occasion of their 35th anniversary. The book describes the early beginnings of medical care in Steinbach and the surrounding region, an area formerly known as the Mennonite East Reserve that was settled by Mennonites from the 1870s migration to Canada. The book identifies some of the important visionary leaders and personalities who did much to improve the health of residents in southeastern Manitoba and focuses on the role the Bethesda Foundation has played in collaboration with others during the last thirty-five years in marshaling the finances, talents, and philanthropy of the community in order to get medical facilities built and devise creative ways to dramatically improve the delivery of health services to citizens of the area.
This grant supports Ph.D. research conducted by Susie Fisher, who has been accepted as a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society (CSRS) at the University of Victoria in 2016. She will spend three months at the CSRS in the winter of 2016 as a writer-in-residence, where she will work towards the completion her Ph.D. dissertation. Susie’s project is centrally concerned with the history of emotion in rural Mennonite migrant communities throughout the West Reserve. Informed by new research inquiries into the history of emotion and the tools of ethnic, migration, and cultural history, and drawing on oral history accounts, newspaper articles, community discourses, travel diaries, correspondence, and material artifacts, her project asks how individuals’ emotional ties to transported living material (seeds and root cuttings), or the value they placed on varied forms of material culture on the prairies (gardens, orchards, and shelter belts) shaped individual and community life in an ethno-religious culture rooted in a history of simple living and non-materialism. She argues that greater analytical attention to affective processes and discourses, as well as material and botanical culture of the 1870s Mennonite migrants and their descendants, generates greater understanding of the complexities of global mobility and rural community life, colonization, family obligations, moral expectations, gender roles, and the experiential dialects of proximity and distance.
This grant supports the forthcoming publication of Historical Atlas of the East Reserve (Ernest N. Braun and Glen R. Klassen, co-editors). The main focus of the atlas is a depiction of the eight townships of the East Reserve (RM of Hanover), and the Scratching River settlement near Morris, Manitoba. Each township section consists of five maps and text: original survey, homesteader, aerial photo, village lands/trails, and historical sites. A second focus depicts the evolution of published historical maps of the East Reserve. And finally, narratives are included on the pre-history of the area, and the indigenous and earliest European settler groups that arrived, stayed, and left the area. All this is bound in a 256-page hard cover, full-colour book in an 8.5 x 11 format.
This grant supports the Chair in Mennonite Studies’ 2015 history conference, “Mennonites, Medicine and the Body: Health and Illness in the Past and Present.” Five sessions in this conference will focus in particular on conservative Mennonites linked to the Manitoba Mennonites of the 1870s. The funds will enable out-of-town researchers participating in these sessions to attend the conference and present papers on aspects of health culture as it is linked to various Mennonite groups of 1870s migration.
Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies, $800
This grant supports the purchase of an archival quality flatbed scanner for assist the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies (CMBS) in scanning and uploading archival images to the Mennonite Archival Image Database (MAID). To date, MAID includes over 80,000 descriptions of photos, 10,000 of which have scanned images connected to them and available to the public online. CMBS holds about a third of these descriptive records and about 1,500 images of the site. This grant will enable CMBS volunteers, under the direction of archivist Conrad Stoesz, to continue uploading high quality scans of archival images to this database.
The “Half Yearly Attendance Reports,” the requirement for daily record keeping in each public school in Manitoba, coincide with the 1916 School Act concerning compulsory school attendance and the termination of bi-lingual schooling in the province. Half yearly attendance reports, 1915- 1968, are available for public viewing on microfilm at the Manitoba Archives. Their accessibility, however, is not without its challenges. This grant supports the digitization of the half yearly reports for all rural Mennonite West Reserve public schools, from 1915 to 1930. These records contain significant information, including: the school name and number; the teacher’s name and his/her certification and salary, grades taught in a school, school board members’ names, the days the school was open each month, the number of each student (resident and non-resident), along with their names, ages, grades, attendance records.
This grant supports the digitization of the Manitoba Homestead files related to the lands inside the Mennonite East and West Reserves. As the Mennonites of the 1870s began arriving on their land in Manitoba (1874-1880), each head of the household applied for a homestead. These homestead records provide an unparalleled window into the early years of Mennonite settlement, as they contain application forms, correspondence, naturalization papers, records of people, building, animals, implements, out-buildings, land broken, crops harvested, etc. Also included in this project is the digitizing of documents produced internally by Mennonites, including a registry of members, census materials, etc. Both the government- and Mennonite-produced sets of records are rare; the originals of the Homestead files have been destroyed, leaving only microfilm copies available and the originals of the Mennonite-produced records migrated with the Old Colony Church to Mexico in 1922. This digitization project, facilitated by the Mennonite Heritage Centre, will make these rare records accessible to the public and ensure the long-term preservation of these rich sources. The finished files will be available at the Mennonite Heritage Centre and through the WestMenn Committee of the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society.
This project’s intent is to make primary source materials accessible to Mennonite West Reserve village researchers. Beginning in 1884, after the initial homesteading process and subsequent Gebietsamt record keeping, the rural municipality (R.M.) maintained both Assessment and Collectors Rolls by legal description that document property ownership. These R.M. of Rhineland records will be digitally photographed at the Provincial Archives of Manitoba and, together with the already photographed Council Minutes and By-Laws, will be made available.
2014Mennonite Heritage Centre, $4,510
This grant supports the Mennonite Heritage Centre’s (MHC) efforts to make the Evangelical Mennonite Conference (EMC) archives more accessible. In September 2015, the EMC transferred the storage of their archival materials to the MHC. Funds from this grant will assist MHC in hiring a contract archivist to write 110 fond level descriptions to make significant records accessible within the MHC database. With the creation of these new electronic and print finding aids, the life, history, and records of the EMC will become more accessible to church members and researchers alike.
This grant provides funding for the purchase and installation of four historical monuments (“Naming of La Crete”, “Early Settlers”, “Early Town”, and “General Mennonite History”) that will educate visitors to La Crete’s Jubilee Park about La Crete’s Mennonite history. The Jubilee Park celebrates 75 years of Mennonite settlement in La Crete. The park project, slated for completion in 2015, has three phases. Plett Foundation funding provided support to Phase II of this project.
This grant supports the publication of a biography of P.J.B. Reimer (1902-1988), an EMC teacher, minister, and historian, and someone heavily involved in the Mennonite community in southern Manitoba. The book is based on a selection of P.J.B.’s public writings, including obituaries, magazine and newspaper columns, and historical and religious writings, as well as on forty years of P.J.B.’s personal journals. Funds from the grant will go to the design and layout of the work, a print run of 200 copies, and the launch and marketing of the work.
This project explores the history of the Mennonite experience with, and conceptions of, health and disease. Focusing on the influenza epidemic of 1918, the project will use death records from the R. M. of Hanover and reports published in Die Steinbach Post to better understand the impact influenza had on the Mennonite community in the East Reserve in Manitoba. The project aims to place the impact of disease and death, and the community’s understanding of it, within a larger framework, exploring its role in the construction of “imagined communities” across geographical distances. Funding received will cover travel and related research costs.
This Ph.D. research seeks to compile a genealogy and to write the history and ethnography of the Mennonites of Salamanca. The funds of this research grant will support travel and related research costs of the project.
This grant supports research into how Mexican society perceives Low German Mennonites living in Mexico by exploring how Mennonites are represented in Mexican television, film, photography, and newspapers. Janzen argues that Mexican representations of Mennonites in the media focus on two themes of migration and death, and that ‘migration’ connects Mennonites in Mexico to Mennonites in other countries and ‘death’ connects Mennonites in Mexico with Mexican culture. This Plett Foundation research grant funds travel to Mexico and related research costs.
This Plett Foundation publication grant supports the printing of a two-volume book on the history of La Crete. Volume One will explore the history of the community’s development and Volume Two will contain the stories of the community’s early pioneer settlers and local families.
Grants from the Plett Foundation have helped the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies and the Mennonite Heritage Centre hire an indexer to read and index the themes, people and places that are mentioned in the Mennonitishe Rundschau from 1910 to 1919. The Rundschau began as a non-denominational newspaper that served the Mennonite community in Canada, United States and Russia, including those Mennonites who arrived in North American in the 1870s. This grant was awarded for Phase 6 of this project, indexing the years 1919 and database upgrades.
2013Mennonite Historical Society of Canada, Genealogy Site Committee, $4,000
The Canadian Mennonite Genealogy Project is a redesign of the web site www.mennonitegenealogy.com, which is run by MHSC. The project is to preserve original historical documents that are currently difficult to access and make these sources readily and easily accessible online to researchers worldwide. Examples of the types of documents that will be made accessible in the project include: church and family books; congregational data; cemetery, birth, baptismal, and marriage documents; immigration data; census documents; obituaries; school registers; and private documents.
This publication grant supports the publication of a history of the Borosenko Colonies in Russian and English.
This research grant provides additional funding for a project that investigates the adaptive technology of ‘horse and buggy’ Mennonites in South America, as it relates to their orthodoxy. The grant supports travel to Mennonite colonies in Belize, las Piedras, Yaniqua, Sommafieldt, Riva Palacios, and Santa Rita. Mennonites with varying degrees of orthodoxy and different perspectives relating to the boundaries their faith puts on the use of technology are to be interviewed about the ways in which their faith has influenced the use of technology. This research will be presented in a publication when it is completed.
This publication grant supports the publication of a history of Neubergthal, Manitoba.
This project is in the discipline of cultural anthropology and explores how Russian Mennonite history affects current Mennonite understandings. The project focuses on how contemporary Mennonites “live” martyrdom through their own ailing and dying bodies; how suffering and dying in a Canadian hospital or hospice, for instance, can be connected to Anabaptist theological ideals of suffering and dying, a history of martyrdom, and how these cultural “scripts” interact with medical constructions of suffering with illness and death.
The Manitoba German Language Contest, presented by Manitobans for German Language Education, is held to encourage excellence in German among students studying the German language in any Manitoba high school. Participating students are tested in their German proficiency in listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing. Their work is evaluated by dozens of teachers and professors who volunteer their time for the contest. This grant helps to fund cash prizes for winners.
This grant assisted in creating the Mennonite Archival Image Database (MAID), a project initiated by the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada (MHSC) to create an online database that combines the photo collections of the major Mennonite archives. With the assistance of this grant, together with other project partners, MAID was launched by MHSC in 2015.
This research grant supports the translation of twenty-eight oral history interviews, conducted in 1978-81 by the Multicultural Historical Society of Ontario. This is a collection of interviews conducted in Low German with members of the first generation of Mennonite immigrants from Mexico to southern Ontario. These English translations would enable this significant primary archival source to be more widely accessible to researchers interested in the history of Low German-speaking Mennonites in southern Ontario.
Grants from the Plett Foundation have helped the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies and the Mennonite Heritage Centre hire an indexer to read and index the themes, people and places that are mentioned in the Mennonitishe Rundschau from 1910 to 1919. The Rundschau began as a non-denominational newspaper that served the Mennonite community in Canada, United States and Russia, including those Mennonites who arrived in North American in the 1870s. This grant was awarded for Phase 5 of this project, indexing the years 1917-1918.
The Centro Escolar Evangélico received a publication grant to publish a German translation of Delbert Plett’s Pioneers & Pilgrims.
This research grant funds travel to Poland in order to take digital photographs of archival records pertaining to Mennonites in Prussia. These records are largely inaccessible at this point and this project will make them available to the public online. In 2014, research was conducted at the Malbork Archives and the second part of the project took place in 2015, with research conducted at the archives in Bydgoszcz and Torun.
This Ph.D. research seeks to compile a genealogy and to write the history and ethnography of the Mennonites of Salamanca. The grant funds travel to Winnipeg, Manitoba and related costs for archival research conducted at the Mennonite Heritage Centre Archives. This research will provide a contextual base for the anthropological study conducted in Salamanca.
Dress among the Holdeman Mennonites is a visible symbol of conservative religious values and it remains an important symbol of identity, functioning as a social boundary marker. While dress styles remained rather stable throughout much of the twentieth century, by 1990 notable changes were obvious. These changes continue and are accelerating, possibly representing the weakening of dress as a cultural boundary marker that separates the Holdemans from wider culture. Through qualitative research, this study will document the evolution of Mennonite dress and tensions surrounding it in the past twenty years in California, Canada, and Kansas.
This Ph.D. research explores the educational practices and beliefs of the Old Colony Mennonites. It is composed of a multi-sited ethnographic analysis of Canadian Old Colony Mennonites’ perceptions of the purpose of schooling and the extent to which this understanding has remained constant across time and space. This research grant was awarded for travel to Mexico to visit Old Colony schools and interview individual Mennonites about their experience with schooling, in order to contextualize the Old Colony Mennonite experience of schooling in Manitoba, Canada.
This research grant supports the research on Mennonites in Riva Palacios, Bolivia, conducted as part of the Chair in Mennonite Studies’ Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council-supported “Seven Points on Earth” project. The project investigates Mennonite relationships with land and agriculture in seven locations around the world: Riva Palacios, Bolivia; Neubergthal-Sommerfeld area in southern Manitoba, Canada; Friesland in northern Holland, the Netherlands; Java, Indonesia; Appolanovka, Siberia, Russia; Kanora, Iowa, USA; and Paddenhurt, Bulawayo province, Zimbabwe.