The Paliyans are proud to vote in elections according to a news story posted in this website nearly seven years ago. It appears from a report in The Hindu on April 6 as if they are still just as committed to voting.

A grizzled squirrel (Photo by Cyrillic in Wikimedia, in the public domain)
A grizzled squirrel (Photo by Cyrillic in Wikimedia, in the public domain)

A Paliyan community near Shenbagathoppu asked officials to establish a voting place for them right in their community, even though it has only 30 families, 62 voters. The new polling station was established at the Tribal Residence School in Shenbagathoppu, which is near an entrance to the enormous Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary.

The polling place was staffed on election day but only 52 voters had showed up by closing time. So the administrative staff decided to keep the polling site open and wait for the rest who were still expected. The staff responsible for administering the voting, three of whom were women, had arrived the evening before. Since the school has no rest rooms, the women were allowed to use the facilities in a private home nearby.

Paliyan men at a Murugan temple in Tamil Nadu
Paliyan men at a Murugan temple in Tamil Nadu (Photo by Steve Bonta, used by permission)

Beginning at 7:00 am the voters had begun trickling in. P. Gopal, the leader of the community, told The Hindu that the voters had to spend their days gathering honey and herbs in the forest so they would only be able to show up when they could and one by one at that. When the polling spot finally closed, 55 voters had cast their ballots.

Our news story of May 1, 2014, about the Paliyan pride in having the right to vote made it clear that not all of India’s peaceful societies share their attitude. As of that date, the Birhor and the Kadar were boycotting national elections due to the discrimination they felt they were getting from the majorities in their states. The Paliyan at the time also felt discrimination from the majority Tamils but they decided that voting was a positive way to approach their problems. It appears as if the people in Shenbagathoppu still cherish those values.

 

The Lepchas living in villages near the massively popular tourist destination Tsomgo Lake in Sikkim were included in a news story on March 30 along with their neighbors the Bhutias and the Sherpas. The article, published on Mongabay.com, the prestigious international nature and environmental news website, described the local initiatives to protect the lake environment from the hordes of tourists who visit each year.

Tsomgo Lake in East Sikkim (Photo by Indrajit Das in Wikimedia, Creative Commons license)
Tsomgo Lake in East Sikkim (Photo by Indrajit Das in Wikimedia, Creative Commons license)

Also known as Changu Lake, Tsomgo is considered to be sacred by the local people. Located at 12,406 feet in the mountains about 25 miles northeast of Sikkim’s capital, Gangtok, the lake and its surrounding lands is a biodiversity hotspot that hosts Himalayan black bears, red pandas, and musk deer. It is also a stopover spot for migrating birds—and for huge numbers of tourists, whose spending contributes a lot to the local economy.

But the tourists bring their polluting ways to the lake, harming the wonders they have come to enjoy. To address the problem, the state government of Sikkim established lake conservation committees to involve local communities in protecting their natural wonders. The Tsomgo Pokhri Sanrakshan Samiti (TPSS), the Tsomgo Lake Conservation Committee, was formed by the enthusiastic local people in 2008, the first in Sikkim.

Tourists and yaks at Tsomgo Lake (photo by shankar s. on Flickr, Creative Commons license)
Tourists and yaks at Tsomgo Lake (photo by shankar s. on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

As one member from a local village was quoted by the Mongabay reporter: “Our village elders used to say that it is our duty to protect the lake and keep it clean. Else, calamity might befall the villagers… This is something every villager believes and they are fully committed to keeping the lake clean.”

TPSS acts for the communities as the custodian of the lake, keeping records of expenses incurred in protecting it from pollution and litter. Two members of each of the 180 households in the three villages around the lake serve on the TPSS, as well as other stakeholders such as representatives of the police and shopkeepers’ associations.

The organization collects Rs. 10 from each tourist, half of which goes to the state environmental agency and the rest to support local conservation initiatives. Since the people are so dependent on the large numbers of tourists, TPSS prefers to avoid fining them for littering. Instead, it simply encourages them to stop polluting. As one person told the reporter, “TPSS is doing their best but they just get trapped sometimes in the deluge of tourists.”

Livemint.com, an Indian news website, published an article on March 19 about a new children’s dictionary of the Birhor language. The news story indicated that the dictionary is designed to increase the appeal of the language for their children so they will want to continue using it when they become adults.

The new dictionary for Birhor children
The new dictionary for Birhor children

Titled Abun Ari Re (Our Surroundings), the 40 pages of Birhor text by Bikram Jora is translated into both Hindi and English. The illustrated book includes words for folk tales, common objects, and activities that would appeal to kids so they will feel encouraged to use the Birhor language regularly. There are less than 10,000 speakers of Birhor today.

The book was compiled and published by the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, an organization that is based in the U.S.  Jora, who is the project coordinator for South Asian projects for the institute, said that Birhor children are slowly abandoning their language in favor of spoken Hindi. “We have heard children now using batak, which is the Hindi word for duck, instead of the Birhor word gede,” Jora explained. The institute wants to counter the idea that the Birhor language will become irrelevant in time. Now is a good time to reverse that trend.

Birhor woman with children (Screen capture from the video “Birhor—a Tribe Displaced for Nothing” by VideoVolunteers on YouTube, Creative Commons license)
Birhor woman with children (Screen capture from the video “Birhor—a Tribe Displaced for Nothing” by VideoVolunteers on YouTube, Creative Commons license)

Last month the institute gave away 500 copies to school-age Birhor children in 10 villages located in five districts of Jharkhand state. It also gave free copies to local schools. With a literacy rate of around 20 percent among the Birhor, one of Jora’s goals in writing the book was to  make Birhor words for common objects familiar to students—they frequently don’t appreciate the importance of their language when it doesn’t seem to relate to their daily lives. “With this book, the teachers will be able to communicate and understand the Birhor children better,” Jora said.

The author told the journalist that Birhor adults are beginning to take an interest in the program. One issue that has come up is that there are local variations of Birhor words for the same things. For instance, in one district the word for custard apple is “serfa” while in another it is “maadal.”

Gregory D. S. Anderson, the director and president of the institute, discussed the importance of preserving languages spoken by increasingly small numbers of people. He emphasized the need to reverse the trend of people abandoning their native languages in favor of the large, international ones.

In the middle of March, two major Indian newspapers published articles about the Malapandaram of Kerala. The New Indian Express published an analysis of the conditions in some colonies near Sabarimala on March 9 and the Times of India weighed in covering mostly the same people and colonies on March 12. This peaceful society is rarely covered by the press so the back to back overage was unusual.

Lady at Sabarimala, probably Malapandaram, selling traditional healing oils made from forest herbs (Photo by Ragesh Vasudevan on Flickr, Creative Commons license)
Lady at Sabarimala, probably Malapandaram, selling traditional healing oils made from forest herbs (Photo by Ragesh Vasudevan on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

The New Indian Express article opens with comments by Raju, the chief of the Manjathodu colony, which is located on the highway up to Sabarimala, the great Hindu pilgrimage site. Raju, 41, described for the journalist his daily survival strategies. The trumpeting of a wild elephant could be heard in the distance by the journalist, prompting Raju to comment that they have to listen at night for them. When the elephants attack their buildings, as they do frequently, the people have to run for their lives. All they can do is rebuild.

Almost two years ago, Raju and his family and 15 other Malapandaram families resettled at Manjathodu after they were assured by government officials that they would be given tracts of land. That still has not happened.

One official, the former Collector for the Pathanamthitta District, intervened and helped them obtain identity documents and ration cards. Apparently, in the past officials in the forest department of Kerala opposed transfering land to the tribal people. This time around, the Tribal Extension Officer is hoping to find a solution.

A tribal family at Attathodu, probably Malapandaram (Photo by jaya8022 that used to be in Wikimedia with a Creative Commons license)
A tribal family at Attathodu, probably Malapandaram (Photo by jaya8022 that used to be in Wikimedia with a Creative Commons license)

The article also described some social issues facing the Malapandaram, especially the over-consumption of alcohol. The tribal people earn money by gathering forest products which they then sell. Many use the funds to purchase alcohol and then return to their homes drunk. According to V.K. Narayanan, the chief of the Attathodu colony, “alcoholism is highly prevalent among both men and women. Fights are also common making it difficult to settle all at one place.”

The journalist visited Attathodu, about 20 km. east of Manjathodu, and found that a variety of tribal people lived in that much larger settlement, including some Malapandaram. The people in the larger settlement enjoyed an uninterrupted power supply and proper roofs on their buildings. They still must contend with interruptions of their water supply and raids from aggressive wild animals.

The Times of India opened its article, much as the NIE did, with comments by Raju from the Manjathodu colony. He said that his four children are all studying in tribal schools and living safely in hostels but he, his wife, and his 75-year-old mother are at the mercy of the wild animals. He added that he has to buy his drinking water.

The TOI quoted a woman named P.V. Manju from Attathodu. She expressed outrage at the attitudes of Indian women in demanding the right to join the hordes of men at the annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala, an issue that roiled India two years ago. The pilgrimage to the temple of the god Ayyappan is one of the biggest in the world, but until 2018 it had been restricted to men only. Ms. Manju felt that the presence of women on the pilgrimage was an affront to their Hindu faith.

 

Around the world, people are asking good questions about the different vaccines that are now available for preventing COVID-19—whether to get vaccinated, how and where to get the shots, and so on. The Orang Asli of Malaysia are as confused as many others so the popular Malaysian news website Free Malaysia Today on March 7 published an article describing the situation. The article focuses on how advocates for the Semai, Batek, Chewong and other Original People are trying to cope with the situation.

Colin Nicholas from the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns told the reporter that the Orang Asli were being deceived by false information and fake news. He said that this misinformation might make it difficult to convince the people to get vaccinated.

An Orang Asli child, probably Semai, in the Cameron Highlands of Pahang state (Photo by Phalinn Ooi on Flickr, Creative Commons license)
An Orang Asli child, probably Semai, in the Cameron Highlands of Pahang state (Photo by Phalinn Ooi on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Nicholas cited as an example of fake news a story that the government was planning to use Orang Asli as test subjects for experimental vaccines. He denied the allegation that they typically are anti-vaxers. They carefully follow the vaccination schedules for their children when they are directed to do so by health officials. He added that a lot of technical information about the vaccinations is being issued which does tend to confuse the Orang Asli.

Furthermore, they sometimes misinterpret what they hear or read. For instance, news that two people out of 100,000 who were vaccinated died as a result was blown out of proportion by fear mongers. This was making it difficult to get straightforward, accurate information to the people.

Tijah Yok Chopil (Screenshot from the video “Orang Asli Struggle for Land Rights, by Malaysiakini TV, Creative Commons license)
Tijah Yok Chopil (Screenshot from the video “Orang Asli Struggle for Land Rights, by Malaysiakini TV, Creative Commons license)

Tijah Yok Chopil, a prominent Semai activist, said that many Orang Asli were concerned that they had not heard where the vaccines came from nor what they contained. “There needs to be awareness campaigns tailored to the different Orang Asli communities in their own languages,” she argued.

Khairy Jamaluddin, the Malaysian Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, appealed to civic groups to help the government educate the Orang Asli about issues related to the vaccines for COVID-19.

Many of the news stories about the Nubians focus on the discrimination they face in Egypt and to some extent in Sudan. Two news reports published in Kenya on February 24 and 25 describe the deplorable conditions that the Nubians living in that country have to contend with.

A Nubian in Kenya participates in a discussion about land ownership (Photo by USAID on Flickr, Creative Commons license)
A Nubian in Kenya participates in a discussion about land ownership (Photo by USAID on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

A story in Kenya’s Ghetto Radio on the 24th indicated that the Nubians in Kibos, Kisumu County, have had to endure the demolition of their homes by the Kenya Railways Corporation. A court has allowed them to move into temporary structures but the Nubians maintain that they are exposed to diseases due to the conditions they are forced to endure. “Our lives are not good, when it rains, it gets into our tents. We have small children and elderly women who are being exposed to illnesses,” one person told the reporter.

The resident went on to complain that hundreds of Nubians are forced to use one small toilet that is in very poor condition. The residents are hoping the county government will approve the construction of a temporary structure that will replace the homes destroyed by the railroad. It will help relieve the overcrowding.

A National park in Kenya after a flood (Photo by Linda De Volder on Flickr, Creative Commons license)
A National park in Kenya after a flood (Photo by Linda De Volder on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

The next day, February 25, Ghetto Radio updated its account. The Nubians are saying that the temporary order issued by the local court is having no effect and is not providing any help for them. They say that the court order only allows them to erect temporary facilities that do little to protect them from the heavy rainfall. In fact, they are afraid that the structures could be swept away by floods.

The article quotes Shafi Ali, the chair of a lobby group, the Nubian Rights Forum, who said that since this community of Nubians has been living in that location for over 30 years, Kenya Railways should compensate them for taking the land. After all, Kenya has a law that protects squatters who have lived on tracts of land for that length of time.

But the website of one of the organizations that tries to help the Nubians in Kenya, the Open Society Justice Initiative, makes it clear that they are subject to special discrimination in that country. They are denied the legal protection that other minority groups receive.

(Photo by thisadventurouslife.com on Flickr, Creative Commons license)
Kibera (Photo by thisadventurouslife.com on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

The Justice Initiative explains that the British government brought a group of Nubians to Kenya more than 100 years ago to serve in a colonial regiment, but they were not allowed to return to their homes in Sudan when their terms of service ended. Instead they were resettled in Kibera, a slum close to Nairobi, and to other areas in Kenya. But from the beginning they were denied the rights enjoyed by other Kenyans.

Up to 100,000 descendants of the original settlers live in squalid conditions in scattered ghettos around Kenya, denied of ever gaining the rights of Kenyan citizens by successive governments starting with the British early in the 20th century. The country does not accept the property rights of people that they consider to be alien squatters. The government does not provide any public services or utilities to the Nubian communities, including the ones where they have been living for over a century.

 

A Ladakhi man who made one of his life goals protecting wildlife in the Hemis National Park told his story in a blog post on February 21. He and his co-villagers in the mountains of Ladakh decided that increasing the numbers of wildlife would promote tourism and provide economic benefits to the local economy, as opposed to their traditional hunting which had kept wildlife wary and scarce. His story is indicative of the Ladakhi propensity for adapting their traditional thinking to fit changing conditions.

The Markha River (Photo by Chris Hunkeler on Flickr, Creative Commons license)
The Markha River (Photo by Chris Hunkeler on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

The Markha River Valley through the national park, the focus of the essay by Sonam Nurboo, has become one of the most popular trekking routes in Ladakh. But the author begins his story by telling how he desperately wanted to see a wolf when he was a kid growing up in a village in the Markha region. He pestered his father to help him get a good look at one, which only prompted laughter from the man. He predicted his son would react in fear if he were really able to confront one. Besides, they avoid humans, he told the boy.

But the shyness of wildlife toward people observed by Nurboo’s father has been gradually lessening. Villagers now can easily spot wildlife from their rooftops. They approach the village fearlessly. This factor now attracts conservationists and tourists to brave the mountains and visit the area in order to enjoy the wildlife sightings.

Agricultural fields near a village along the Markha River (Photo by Chris Hunkeler on Flickr, Creative Commons license)
Agricultural fields near a village along the Markha River (Photo by Chris Hunkeler on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

The author provides the background to his story. The people in the Markha Valley used to be very poor—they lacked many necessities. They cultivated enough barley and wheat for their own needs but they did not have the disposable income to allow them to purchase fruits and vegetables from outside their mountain valley. Food scarcity prompted people to depend on game meat as a supplement.

As the people began to rely increasingly on hunting deer, wild sheep, and ibex, the numbers of those prey species declined, which caused the numbers of snow leopards that relied for their food on those animals to decline also. Furthermore, the lamas in this primarily Buddhist region of Ladakh expressed their opposition to all killing of animals and many of the villagers agreed with them. But faced with a choice between following Buddhist teachings and starving, the villagers chose to hunt in order to put at least some food on the table.

Nurboo finished his education and decided to focus his career on helping wildlife by getting a job with a tour operator. He first worked as a helper in a tour company until he got a position as a tourist guide—a “dream job,” he called it. From his experiences guiding people in such places as the Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal in the 1990s, he learned that stricter laws protecting wild areas were important for maintaining healthy animal populations. He also learned that people would begin to respect wildlife when they could see their own economy benefiting from the spending by tourists who came to view the animals.

Wildlife visible along the Markha Valley trek (Photo by trapheler on Flickr, Creative Commons license)
Wildlife visible along the Markha Valley trek (Photo by trapheler on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

In 2015 he returned to his homeland, the Markha Valley, to see if he could improve the conditions for wildlife there. He decided to run for elective office as sarpanch of his village, an official position. Naturally, wildlife conservation became a priority. He called on officials from the wildlife department as well as other influential local people to get wildlife programs working, with a special emphasis on building tourism.

He realized that the government had to help the villagers provide food for their families, so it implemented agricultural support programs such as greenhouse farming. It also helped farmers fence their farms to protect their crops from the deer, ibex, and sheep. The government also constructed some paths to make it easier for tourists to walk to good wildlife viewing spots.

The local children were included in programs designed to foster awareness of the importance of wildlife to the community. The young people started pressing their elders to protect wild animals from indiscriminate hunting. The local lamas did their part to preach the value of sensible village management of wildlife.

The author concludes that as of now the Markha Valley has excellent populations of wolves, deer, ibexes, blue sheep and snow leopards. People live “in peace and harmony with wild animals,” he maintains, which no longer fear their human neighbors. People commonly spot these animals fairly close to the village. Nurboo hopes that his childhood dream of having close-up views of wild wolves will come to pass someday.

A sign posted in Leh, Ladakh, that states “Keep Leh Clean: Make legal ban on polythenes a success” (Photo taken on September 17, 2007 by Ajay Tallam on Flickr, Creative Commons license)
A sign posted in Leh, Ladakh, that states “Keep Leh Clean: Make legal ban on polythenes a success” (Photo taken on September 17, 2007 by Ajay Tallam on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

While his essay has a self-congratulatory element to it, nonetheless it does reflect a tendency of the Ladakhi people to take charge of their own environmental conditions and do something to correct the problems they see. For instance, they perceived that non-recyclable, single-use plastic bags harmed their natural environment. In order to address the problem, they outlawed them completely in 1998, long before most of the world was aware that the bags pose an environmental threat.

Their solution to protecting wildlife by developing tourism would not necessarily fit other communities but it does reflect the Ladakhi temperament. Don’t just complain—do something.

 

Jeffrey Cohen, an anthropology professor at the Ohio State University, updated in a published article on February 12 an earlier blog post describing the ways the Zapotec have been coping with the pandemic. That post was summarized here on August 21, 2020. His update further amplifies his observations of last year.

Future Zapotec leaders on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (Photo by Avi Dolgin on Flickr, Creative Commons license)
Future Zapotec leaders on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (Photo by Avi Dolgin on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Cohen observes that when he and his co-author of a  recent journal article were doing their original research during the early stage of the pandemic, the small size  of the indigenous communities and their relative isolation had kept them away from the spread of the virus. Two-thirds of the 500 communities in Oaxaca had not had any cases of COVID-19. Even now, about one-third of the villages have still not reported any cases.

As cases of the virus have slowly seeped into some of their villages, the Zapotec have devised ways of coping. One of their strategies is physical isolation: they erect blockades on roads leading into their villages to keep out visitors—potential carriers of the virus. Also, the leaders of the communities promote safe practices. “The village leaders are generally respected by the people and they are listened to when they promote health measures like wearing a mask and social distancing,” Cohen said.

Another measure the Zapotec are using to slow the spread of the virus is eating less commercially-produced foods. Instead of buying meats from the markets, many are harvesting wild grasshoppers, “chapulines,” and toasting them over fires to eat as their ancestors did. In that spirit, they are also gathering and consuming wild honey.

A participant dances during the 2015 Guelaguetza celebration in Oaxaca (Screen capture from the video Guelaguetza 2015 Producciones MVM Televisión on YouTube, Creative Commons license)
A participant dances during the 2015 Guelaguetza celebration in Oaxaca (Screen capture from the video Guelaguetza 2015 Producciones MVM Televisión on YouTube, Creative Commons license)

Cohen argues that probably the most important strategy used by the Zapotec communities to cope with the threat of the pandemic is to follow their tradition of reciprocity. The practice of guelaguetza, as they call it, is more than just helping out neighbors when they need assistance. When someone gets sick, from the COVID-19 virus or anything else, the neighbors will take care of everything. They will care for crops, share water and food, and do whatever is needed. People are never left to care for themselves.

The scholar concludes his paper by arguing that the most important service the Zapotec communities could get from the normally unresponsive government agencies would be access to clean, safe drinking water. Their use of polluted water increases the incidence of debilitating illnesses such as cholera, which magnify the effects of the COVID-19 virus.

 

The Yanadi of coastal Andhra Pradesh are increasingly dependent for their income on fish raised in cages along the Krishna River estuary. A brief report in The Hindu on February 8 described the actions by agencies and scientists involved in fostering this novel way for the poor, landless people to secure a better living.

Fish culture in cages in Chandpur, coastal Bangladesh (Photo by AsikBinRahim in Wikimedia, Creative Commons License)
Fish culture in cages in Chandpur, coastal Bangladesh (Photo by AsikBinRahim in Wikimedia, Creative Commons License)

Raising Asian sea bass and Indian pompano in cages, in a process called “mariculture,” another term for fish farming, provides a living for a number of Yanadi, many of whom used to be dependent on fishing alone. Several agencies have given scientific and technical assistance—and financial help. The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI-Visakhapatnam), the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF-Chennai), and the National Fisheries Development Board (NABARD) are among the supporters.

About ten years ago, the CMFRI began experimenting with cage fish farming at the behest of a progressive farmer in the Krishna area, Mr. T. Raghu Sekhar. As a result of their successes, about 80 floating fish cages have been installed in the estuary for the use of the Yanadi and other tribal people, with the costs supported by CMFRI. “Mariculture is a lifeline for the landless poor,” said Raghu Sekhar.

A Yanadi fisherman paddling a log boat (Photo by Only the Best that was on NationMaster.com and copyrighted, but released for all uses without reservation)
A Yanadi fisherman paddling a log boat (Photo by Only the Best that was on NationMaster.com and copyrighted, but released for all uses without reservation)

The Hindu quoted R. Ramasubramanyan, a researcher with MSSRF, who said that the support by the agencies for the new venture, by providing supplies and training, “will yield more results in mariculture, apart from uplifting the landless families.”

A news story posted on December 4 covered the Yanadi efforts to help protect the nesting olive ridley sea turtles that swim ashore to lay their eggs along the coast of the state. It appears as if the Yanadi commitment to effectively managing their coastal environment extends to their harvesting of fish as well.

Some Hutterite colonies in Manitoba are repaying the supportive kindness toward them displayed by the Jewish community in the province nearly 75 years ago. The details of this long-standing positive relationship were described on January 30 by the Winnipeg Free Press.

 Young Hutterite women hanging out on a Winnipeg street (Photo by Dave Shaver on Flickr, Creative Commons license)
Young Hutterite women hanging out on a Winnipeg street (Photo by Dave Shaver on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

On April 21, 1947, a group of Jewish businesspeople testified at a hearing in the Manitoba legislature against a discriminatory measure being considered. If enacted, it would have limited the rights of Hutterites to buy land in the province. The Jews argued that the proposed law would affect other minority people as well.

Ian Kleinsasser, a Hutterite historian and teacher from the Crystal Springs colony, treasured a newspaper clipping from 1947 about the incident. He wanted to continue the reciprocal kindnesses offered by the two groups. When he learned that a 200-bed Jewish personal care center in Winnipeg was making an appeal for help, he led a group of Hutterites to respond.

The logo of the Simkin Centre in Winnipeg (From their website)
The logo of the Simkin Centre in Winnipeg (From their website)

At first, when the group met with Cindy Greenlay, the manager of support services at the Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre, they discussed the immediate need of the center. It was seeking help in coping with the pandemic. It had suffered from an outbreak of the disease. The staff had to change into fresh, clean isolation gowns every time they entered the room of a different resident infected with COVID-19. The staff was seeking help from volunteers with the task of folding the gowns after they were washed.

The conversation quickly expanded. The Hutterites offered to start making more of the yellow polyester gowns to supplement their supply. The Simkin Centre paid for the supplies, which included 1,400 meters of fabric, and the Hutterites would set aside their own sewing projects back at the colony and devote their time for a while to making the isolation gowns.

The Crystal Springs Colony school in Manitoba (Photo by Stefan Kuhn on Wikimedia, Creative Commons license)
The Crystal Springs Colony school in Manitoba (Photo by Stefan Kuhn on Wikimedia, Creative Commons license)

Lillian Kleinsasser, a cousin by marriage of Ian Kleinsasser, who also lived and worked at Crystal Springs, by the end of December had cut out hundreds of gowns for others at her colony to sew. In a couple weeks, dozens of people at the colony had fabricated hundreds of gowns for the Simkin Centre. Ms. Kleinsasser, who has five children, expressed the feelings of the group: “It gives you a very nice warm feeling inside if you can help somebody else.” Some other colonies contributed new gowns as well.

By the middle of January, Mr. Kleinsasser, who acted as the delivery person for the colony, had given 500 isolation gowns to the Jewish care facility. He also shared with Ms. Greenlay the 1947 press clipping about the Jewish gesture on behalf of the Hutterites. He said that except for historians, the story is not very well known.

After he delivered the gowns, Kleinsasser concluded, “This is an opportunity to give back some loving kindness to strangers and just reach out and make a difference.”