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
The Plett Foundation encourages grant recipients to consider depositing relevant research materials from their projects at the Mennonite Heritage Archives in Winnipeg, Manitoba in order to support and promote continued research into the study of the 1870s Mennonites and their descendants.
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.
Application Deadlines: March 15 and September 15
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 printukraing.
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 for three years from the date it was awarded. Grant holders should contact the Foundation as soon as possible to alert us of any delays 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 can be awarded to either private individuals or to organizations. Grants to individuals and organizations that are not charities are disbursed as reimbursements based on receipted expenses. Grants administered through a post-secondary institution such as a university or college, or to a registered charity, 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
2021Altbergthal History Committee, $4,500
A Plett Foundation publication grant was awarded to fund the printing of a community history of the former Altbergthal School District No. 1296. For decades, innumerable former residents and interested historians have collected information, stories and photos pertinent to the Altbergthal School District. Graham Schellenberg has collated this information, sourced photographs and documents, and travelled across Manitoba interviewing former residents from the community. The book examines, through a community-centric lens, themes such as the life of residents, major events, agriculture, education, politics and religion both locally and throughout the West Reserve.
A Plett Foundation research grant was awarded to further Brent Wiebe’s ongoing Mennonite map research. Funds will be used to purchase maps dating from the 1850s, discovered in the Moscow archives, of Mennonite settlements, including the Bergthal colony, and to pay for photography of maps of Mennonite estates and properties, located in the Zaporizhzhya Archives.
A Plett Foundation research grant was awarded to hire a graphic designer to take maps of Mennonite migration and settlement that have been created using GIS software and raw data and create presentation-quality maps that will be used on the Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies website and for possible publishing in paper format.
A Plett Foundation publication grant was awarded to “Indigenous-Mennonite Encounters in Time and Place,” an academic conference and community education event scheduled for May 13-15, 2022, at Conrad Grebel University College, that will offer stories and analyses of encounters and relationships between Indigenous peoples and Mennonite settlers from point of contact through to the present. The grant will fund travel and accommodation for conference presenters, support travel, accommodation, and honoraria for Indigenous participants, and support speaking and performance fees for Indigenous keynote presenters and artistic performers.
A Plett Foundation publication grant was awarded to support the printing, artwork, design, and layout of Tjnals enn Welm, a Low German book of humourous stories about two young teenagers from the village of Steintal and Tjneppeldarp who love to pull pranks on others, but also have to deal with various setbacks in their lives. Most of the book’s hundred stories were previously published in the Mennonitische Post, where they have been very popular.
A Plett Foundation publication grant was awarded to support the development of an exhibit titled “Mennonite Clocks: Art, Heritage, and Home,” which will be held at the Manitoba Museum. The exhibit will explore the cultural significance of these clocks using four main themes: history (how Mennonite-made clocks were made and by whom), migration (how Mennonites brought their clocks with them wherever they have immigrated), home (how Mennonites have used clocks as markers of home), and heritage (how Mennonites today use clocks as an important marker of belonging to a shared Mennonite past).
A Plett Foundation publication grant was awarded to support the production of Royden Loewen’s book The Mennonite Farmer: A Global History of Place and Sustainability (Johns Hopkins University Press/University of Manitoba Press, 2021). The grant will fund indexing of the text, and free distribution of the book to many of the 158 subjects, from seven Mennonite communities in locations around the world, who were interviewed for the book.
A Plett Foundation publication grant was awarded to the Khortytsia National Reserve in Zaporoshye, Ukraine, to cover the cost of printing a brochure that promotes a memorial that was constructed using headstones from the former Chortitza Mennonite cemetery. The memorial, located on Chortitza Island, includes fifteen recovered headstones of more than one hundred headstones (full and partial) that were recently excavated. The brochure contains colour photos and historical information about the recovered stones. The text in the brochure is in the Ukrainian and English languages and was printed in Ukraine. The brochure will be distributed in the future by the Khortytsia National Reserve to augment tours of their museum and the memorial site.
A Plett Foundation publication grant was awarded to support editorial and production costs of a new book by James Urry on the history Russlaender Mennonites who immigrated from the Soviet Union to Grunthal, Manitoba, in the 1920s. In Grunthal, the Russlaender had to come terms with a wide spectrum of factors: a new land; the Kanadier who remained or returned from Paraguay; Ukrainian, French, and Indigenous neighbours; and the British-Canadian establishment. The book is an account of this “coming to terms,” focussed particularly on the first generation of immigrants and the historical contexts in which this occurred.
2020Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies, $19,780
A Plett Foundation publication grant was awarded to the Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies in support of “Departing Canada, Encountering Latin America: Reflections on the Centenary of Mennonite
Emigration from Canada to Mexico and Paraguay,” a conference to be held at the University of Winnipeg on October 20-21, 2022. The grant will provide airfare and hotel accommodations for approximately 17 individuals presenting papers at the conference from cities as distant as Buenos Aires, Argentina, and London, England.
A Plett Foundation publication grant was awarded to Karina Warkentin in support of publication of an edited collection of stories about the migration of Mennonites from Mexico to Paraguay. Nueva Durango: Paraguays Regenwald wird mennonitisches Zuhause, a 198-page book with many photographs, printed in full colour, was published in fall of 2020.
A Plett Foundation publication grant was awarded to Mennonite Heritage Archives to support its project to digitize the Steinbach Post. The Post, established as the Volks Bote in 1913, contains news from the Mennonite settlements of Manitoba and other provinces, and was read by Mennonites of Canada, Mexico, and Paraguay. It was the oldest Mennonite weekly founded in Canada. Digitization will increase access and serve a preservation function, as the hard copies are in poor shape. The grant will cover the labour cost of digitization and image processing.
A Plett Foundation publication grant was awarded to Mennonite Heritage Villlage to support development of the temporary exhibition “Mennonite Migration to Mexico,” in commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of Mennonites leaving Canada for Mexico. The exhibit will draw on MHV’s own artefact collection and will also incorporate artefacts and archival objects from the community in order to tell the story of this Mennonite migration through material culture. The exhibit will open in May 2022 in the Gerhard Ens Gallery and will be on display until the end of September 2022.
A Plett Foundation grant was awarded to the Pembina Threshermen’s Museum to support the purchase of a pair of electronic signs to promote the museum from the highway on which it is located, outside of Winkler, Manitoba. The grant was awarded to the museum on the basis of its work to present Mennonite history.
A Plett Foundation grant was awarded to Refuge 31 Films to fund development and production of a documentary film tentatively titled “Conform,” directed by Andrew Wall. This TV-hour film will tell the story of the Mennonites who left Manitoba and Saskatchewan for Mexico in the 1920s in order to maintain autonomy over the education of their children, which they considered crucial to the practice of their faith. The documentary will be produced to commemorate the centenary of the beginning of this migration in 1922.
2019Ben Nobbs-Thiessen, $5,580
This grant will fund a research trip to Mexico City, Chihuahua City, and the Ciudad Cuauhtémoc region, as part of a project titled “Settlers, Braceros, Narcos: Mennonites Across the Borderlands of Mexico.” The project is comparative in nature and will begin with migratory events in the 1920s-30s U.S.-Mexico borderlands to show how xenophobia and post-revolutionary nationalism shaped patterns of crossborder migration. The project centres on migratory responses to the decades-long mid-20th century drought in Northern Mexico when a new generation of Mennonites and their Mexican neighbours once again crossed the border, this time as braceros (labourers) heading north to work fields from Texas to Ontario. It will also examine the effect of the drought in introducing new environmental strategies for farming including aquifer-based irrigation – a focus of the research trip. The project concludes by exploring the effects of NAFTA which engendered a third generation of Mennonite border-crossing – extending from Seminole, Texas to southern Ontario – that often drew on those earlier
patterns of migration.
This grant will support Brent Wiebe’s ongoing “Trails of the Past” project of georeferencing historical maps of areas of Mennonite settlement and publication of these resources online. Funds will assist with georeferencing and digitizing maps of Manitoba, West Prussia, Crimea, and Ukraine. The grant will also assist with making improvements to the comprehensive Mennonite village map found on the Trails of the Past website, and with database development.
This grant will fund a research trip to Mexico to digitize the known documents of Manitoba Reinlaender Mennoniten Gemeinde and West Reserve Gebietsamt origin still existent in Mexico. Research possibilities will be enhanced and indexing of contents will be facilitated by acquiring quality digital images of original documents. Further Cuauhtemoc Mexico Archive and Property Registry research will also be conducted.
This grant will enable the EMC Archives to hire a contract archivist to complete the fond-level descriptions of the EMC archival collection housed at Mennonite Heritage Archives.
Making Believe: Questions About Mennonites and Art, was published by the University of Manitoba Press in April 2020. This book responds to the remarkable flowering of art by Mennonites in Canada that has happened since 1980. Confronted with an embarrassment of riches that resists survey, Magdalene Redekop opts for the use of case studies to raise questions about Mennonites and art. Part criticism/part memoir, Making Believe is written from the perspective of a descendent of the Kanadier, the group of Mennonites who came to Canada in the 1870s. Redekop imagines a Spielraum or play space in which all artists are dissembling tricksters, but differences in how we play are inflected by where we come from. The close readings in this book insist on respect for difference at the same time as they invite readers to find common ground while making believe across cultures.
This publication grant funded the creation of interpretive panels for Margruite Krahn’s exhibit “Resurfacing: Mennonite Floor Patterns,” which showed at Gallery in the Park in Altona, Manitoba, in the summer of 2020. The exhibit presented floor cloths created by Krahn that replicated paintings she uncovered on the floors of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Mennonite housebarns. The interpretive panels told the stories of the women who created these decorative patterns.
The Plett Foundation publication grant will help cover the costs of production and dissemination of a book first published in Paraguay in Spanish: Hannes Kalisch and Ernesto Unruh, ¡No llores! The book is a collection of oral histories told by Enlhet elders to Hannes Kalisch and Ernesto Unruh in the 1980s and 1990s. The Enlhet and the other indigenous peoples of the Chaco had been virtually untouched by colonialism until the 1920s. But in 1927 Mennonites from Canada began settling in their territory, followed in 1930 by an additional group of Mennonites from the Soviet Union. In 1932 the Chaco War broke out between Paraguay and Bolivia over possession of the Chaco. Some of the bloodiest fighting was in the middle of the Enlhet territory. The combination of the war, the arrival of the Mennonites, and a severe smallpox epidemic that decimated the community,
For Mennonites, including Kanadier Mennonites in Paraguay and those Mennonites in North America with family connections to the Mennonites in the Chaco, the book is a reminder that the Mennonites now own or occupy most of the 97% of ancestral Enlhet territory taken from them as a result of colonization and the war. Kalisch and Unruh intend the book as a call to dialogue.
For his project “Menonitas 2022” photographer Raúl Ramírez Kigra will make a series of documentary photos and record audio interviews in Winnipeg and Winkler, Manitoba, with Old Colony Mennonites and their descendants or relatives, and academics who have studied aspects of Mennonite culture. Kigra will attend Pioneer Days at the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach, and the Harvest Festival and a Low German Festival in Winkler. The material gathered will form part of an art history book to be produced in Spanish, English and Plautdiestch to be presented in cultural and academic spaces at the 100th anniversary of the Mennonites in México.
This grant assisted with publication of Ralph Friesen’s book Dad, God, and Me: Remembering a Mennonite Pastor and His Wayward Son. Friesen tells the story of his father, Reverend Peter D. Friesen of Steinbach, Manitoba. He also tells his own story, of the search for his father and a crisis of faith. The book was published in December 2019.
This grant provided funds towards Refuge 31’s documentary The Volendam: Ship of Freedom. Specifically, the funding was awarded in support of the film’s telling of the story of how the 1870s descendant Mennonites in Canada were involved in the history of the Volendam ship, from their support of Mennonites leaving Europe in the post-World War II period, to their voyage aboard the Volendam in 1948 from Canada bound for Paraguay.
This grant assisted with publication of the Russian-language monograph Life Against Death, a history of the Mennonite colonies of Borozeno, Ukraine, from their foundation in the nineteenth century to 1943, when their inhabitants left the settlements. The book examines the history of the Kleine Gemeinde congregation and describes the contribution of the diaspora to the socio-cultural and economic development of the territories. It was published in mid-2020.
This grant will provide funds for a research trip in support of a children’s picture book titled Mariekje’s Doll. In the story, rooted in the history of Old Colony Mennonites, Mariekje and her family plan to join a mass migration of Mennonites from Russia to Canada. Will Mariekje be able to convince her family that her old, ragged cloth doll, Leesa, must come along too? Research will be conducted at the Mennonite Heritage and Agricultural Museum in Goessel, Kansas.
2018Aileen Friesen, $5,200
A Plett Foundation research grant was awarded to Dr. Aileen Friesen for her project “Faith, Land, and the Politics of Mennonite Mobility, 1789-1914.” The project investigates how migration regimes, community dynamics, and knowledge produced by state actors and Mennonites shaped the ways in which Mennonites moved into, through, and out of the Russian empire as settlers. The case study will illuminate the practices and policies that shaped Mennonite settler experiences and the ways in which Mennonites interacted with the colonial system during migration. This research will form the basis for an upcoming book of the same name.
A Plett Foundation grant was awarded to Brent Wiebe for his “Trails of the Past” project, which is georeferencing historical maps of various types (military, civilian, and historical) for areas in southeastern Ukraine, specifically, Molotschna, Chortitza, Bergthal, and Borozenko. The project will produce an accurate georeferenced mapping database; detailed, attractive paper maps of the Molotschna and Chortitza cholonies; and a map application for mobile devices.
A Plett Foundation grant was awarded to the Chair in Mennonite Studies at the University of Winnipeg in support of the conference “Mennonites and Anthropology: Ethnography, Religion, and Global Entanglements,” held October 25-26, 2019. The grant provided funding for airfare and travel for conference presenters.
A Plett Foundation travel grant was awarded to Dick Braun to travel to Curitiba, Brazil, to attend the unveiling of a memorial monument in celebration of the life of Johann Wall in 2019. Ohm Wall was part of a delegation of Mennonites from Manitoba and Saskatchewan that went to South America to look for a place to move. Dick represented the Canadian Mennonite community at the memorial ceremony, and published an article on the trip in Preservings, no. 41.
A Plett Foundation grant was awarded to Kat Hill for research at archives in Germany and Poland to study surviving records relevant to the era of Mennonite migration and settlement in Prussia. This research will provide an archival understanding of what migration, dispersion, and diaspora
meant, while also enriching our understandings of what documents survive in relation to the history and heritage of contemporary Canadian Mennonites.
A Plett Foundation publication grant provided funding to Maria Klippenstein to produce a second edition of Faspa, a collection of traditional heritage recipes. The book is not only a collection of recipes, but a story of a way of life. The Faspa meal was a shared tradition in Mennonite homes that brought people together for a time of community and rest. The book shares the essence of Mennonite hospitality in the form of a cooking and lifestyle, with selected articles, historical photographs, and original artwork. Faspa: A Mennonite Heritage Cookbook was published in December 2019.
The Plett Foundation awarded filmmaker Paul Plett with $10,000 in funding to produce a video documentary entitled I Am Mennonite, which explores Paul’s Mennonite roots, beginning with his own family in Manitoba, broadening to questions of Mennonites more generally in Ukraine, and then broadening further to focus on the birth of the Mennonite movement and its diaspora around the world.
A Plett Foundation research grant was awarded to Susie Fisher’s project “The Manitoba Mennonite Heritage Photography Project.” This project has three aims: to conduct research on three early twentieth century, amateur Mennonite photographers from the West and East Reserves (Peter G. Hamm, Peter H. Klippenstein, and Johann E. Funk); to publish this research in an art/history book format containing a representative selection of works from each of the photographers as well as a series of essays by multiple authors from the project team; and to create an exhibition on the topic for display in museums and art galleries. The principal researcher is Susie Fisher and she will be working with a project team composed of curators, historians, archivists, and writers. This grant was awarded for the research and publication of the art/history book.
Eden Health Care Services, $7,000
The Plett Foundation publication grant supported the publication marking the 50th anniversary of Eden Health Care Services entitled Hope, Healing and Community: Celebrating 50 Years of Eden by Glen Klassen. From the back of the book: “Fifty years ago, Manitoba Mennonites launched Eden, a ministry set up to care for people with mental health needs. Over the years a diverse set of services has been created to help those needing good housing, work training and help with personal or family problems. This is the story of the journey taken by the many board members, staff and volunteers of Eden who made hope and recovery possible for so many.” The book was published in April, 2018.
Eastern Mennonite University, $3,000
On June 23-25, 2017 Eastern Mennonite University hosted “Crossing the Line: Women of Anabaptist Traditions Encounter Borders and Boundaries,” a conference that invited scholars and artists to engage in cross-cultural comparisons and examine and illuminate the gendered experiences, historical and contemporary, of women and men within the Anabaptist traditions. The Plett Foundation generously supported the conference travel costs of five scholars who presented on transnational migration, identity, and gender from the perspective of Low German Mennonite women from Mennonite colonies in Northern Mexico.
The Plett Foundation grant supported the printing and marketing of the English book Beyond the Village Circle: Narratives by Mennonite Women from Bolivia and the German book Erzählungen von mennonitischen Frauen aus Bolivien in Bolivia. Martha Hiebert interviewed women from different Mennonite colonies and wrote a collection of stories based on those conversations. They are stories of hardship and loss, of pioneering in the modern world, of self-trained health care providers, of new beginnings, and of hope in God’s guidance. They give a voice to Mennonite women in Bolivia, a voice seldom heard beyond the local village circles.
Mennonite Heritage Village, $2,000
Mennonite Heritage Village’s 2017 exhibit, entitled “Storied Places,” explores the centrality of ‘place’ in Mennonite settlement in Manitoba. This exhibit marks Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation, a challenging topic for a museum that seeks to interpret Mennonite history in Manitoba, since Mennonites did not arrive in the province until 1874. Additionally, the 1870s immigrants and many of their descendants have historically resisted becoming part of a national identity, instead identifying themselves through their faith and history as a migrating people. Mennonite Heritage Village is addressing this issue by focusing on the importance of local ‘place’ in the history of Manitoba’s Mennonites, asking how memories, stories, institutions, and objects have tied Mennonites to the places they have settled in this province, beginning in 1874 and continuing into the twentieth century, and what impact these local places have had on Mennonites. The Plett Foundation grant awarded for this exhibit has provided financial support of the printing of thirteen interpretive panels that will form the core of this exhibit.
Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, $1,000
The Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO) is an online resource for students and researchers interested in Anabaptist history. With over 16,000 encyclopedia entries, in 2017 website received about 1,500 visitors per day. This Plett Foundation grant assisted with the costs associated with the increasing GAMEO’s web-hosting capacity to help to meet the demand of increasing traffic to the website.
This Plett Foundation publication grant is for the publication of Rosenfeld, Manitoba and Surrounding Communities, 1875-1975, published by a committee led by Glenn Friesen. The book was published in early summer 2018.
This Plett Foundation grant was awarded for the video documentary entitled Otto’s Passion. The film is a 45-minute documentary examining the life of Canadian filmmaker, Dr. Otto Klassen. The story begins in a Mennonite village in the Soviet Ukraine, 1926. From there Otto’s life takes many unexpected and harrowing turns. Living under the terror of Stalin, Otto lives through famine, war and then immigrates to the jungles of Paraguay before eventually settling in Canada. Here he would purchase an 8mm film camera and begin the process of passionately telling not only his personal story, but that of his Mennonite people. It is a faith story filled with both great blessings and deep tragedy. A story that Otto is determined should never be forgotten.
“Rebels, Exiles, and Bridge Builders: Cross-cultural Encounters in the Campos Menonitas of Chihuahua” is an oral history project that will collect audio recorded interviews from members of Mennonite, Mexican and Indigenous communities near Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua, Mexico. These interviews will feature narratives by and about “outlier” Mennonites past and present who had forbidden and/or unexpected relationships with the larger Mexican community, as well as, narratives of Mexican and Indigenous people who developed close ties with the Mennonite community. The digital audio recordings, transcripts and translations (when applicable) from these interviews will be housed in the Mennonite Heritage Archives and select interviews will be featured on the DarpStories YouTube Channel for greater access to researchers and the general public, particularly in Latin America.
This grant supports the publication of Hutterites in Manitoba: A Centennial Pictorial, which will contain text and photos that narrate the experience of Hutterites in Manitoba, be published to commemorate the 100th anniversary of their permanent settlement in Manitoba.
This Plett Foundation publication grant supports the publication in German of Gäste und Fremdlinge – Band II and in English of Strangers and Pilgrims – Volume II. The book picks up where Volume 1 left off and chronicles the past thirty years of Mennonite life and its development in Mennonite communities in Latin America, especially the hundred new Mennonite colonies that have been established since Volume 1 was published.
2016Donald Stoesz, $9,000
This publication grant provides funding toward the publication of Donald Stoesz’s Lectionaries, Personal Choices, and Common Texts: Canadian Prairie Mennonite Ministers’ Use of Scripture, 1874-1977. The research behind this publication explores the history of the Mennonites of southern Manitoba by outlining the manner in which seventeen ministers used Scripture references in their sermons over the course of one hundred years.
Timothy Epp, Associate Professor of Sociology at Redeemer University College, was awarded a research grant in support of his project exploring race relations in Mennonite and Mennonite Brethren history. The project looks specifically at Mennonites and Blacks in Saskatchewan and Manitoba during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, focusing on the perspectives of Mennonites who immigrated to Canada in the 1870s and their descendants. This grants supports Epp’s supports the travels costs associated with this research.
This Plett Foundation grant provides funding for “The Virtual Collection of Mennonite Clocks,” a project developed by the Estate of the Late Arthur Kroeger. The project seeks to develop a website (www.kroegerclocks.com) intended to present a virtual collection of historical clocks made by Mennonite clock makers from the mid-eighteenth century to the early twentieth century, beginning in the region around Gdansk, Poland and continuing in southeastern Ukraine/Russia. These wall clocks were an important part of Mennonite material heritage and served as cultural touchstones and family heirlooms as Mennonites migrated around the world throughout the twentieth century. This research grant supports the work of a contracted researcher, compiling primary sources and creating the database for the project.
Mennonite Community Services (MCS) of Southern Ontario is a non-profit organization serving newcomers in Elgin County and surrounding communities in Ontario. One of its programs is the Low German radio station De Brigj. This Plett Foundation publication grant assisted MCS in publishing an English-language book of a series of 137 radio episodes originally produced for De Brigj in Low German. The series focused on the migration of Low German Mennonites from Russia to Canada and from Canada to Mexico and how this population has spread throughout Central and South America. The publication of the episodes in English and in written format expands the accessibility of the material to the general public as well as to a younger, English-speaking generation of Low German Mennonites who no longer understand Low German well.
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 Plett Foundation publication grant supported the publication of The Ältester: Herman D.W. Friesen, a Leader in Changing Times (University of Regina Press, 2018). The book features the life of Herman D. W. Friesen (1908‐1969), a pioneer and a spiritual leader within Old Colony Mennonite Church whose life coincided with the first six decades of Saskatchewan’s development. The narrative takes the often mundane details of Herman’s and his wife Margaretha’s everyday lives and weaves them into the larger trends and events in their church life and provincial worlds. As such, the story offers a unique window into the mid‐century life of the Old Colony Mennonite community in Saskatchewan. Their story begins with the pioneer homesteading origins of their Low German‐speaking parents, who arrived during the 1890s on the Hague‐Osler Mennonite reserve. The school‐age years of Herman and Margaretha coincided with a rapidly escalating conflict over mandatory attendance at English‐language public schools with several provincial governments intent on using these schools to transform ethnic minorities into patriotic Canadians. The conflict precipitated a successive series of migrations on the part of Old Colony Mennonites to remote locations in Central America and other parts of Canada. Despite enormous pressure from church leaders, most members of Herman Friesen’s family opted not to participate in these migrations. Although Herman was not the only Old Colony Mennonite elected as a public school trustee or as a rural municipal councillor during the first half of the twentieth century, it was unusual. During the watershed decade of the 1960s, and for what turned out to be the final seven years of his life, Herman was elected first as a minister, and a year later as the Ältester (Bishop) of the Old Colony Mennonite Church. Herman’s extensive sermon literature (the book includes seven translated sermons) provides a unique glimpse into Old Colony Mennonite theological thought as he sought to guide the church in a strategy of gradual cultural accommodation.
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.