On the Importance of Language: Reclaiming Indigenous Place Names at Wasagamack ᐘᕊᑲᒪᕁ First Nation, Manitoba, Canada
This research focused on utilizing Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and mapping to document over 500 local Indigenous place names at Wasagamack First Nation, Manitoba, and to explore the role of mapping tools in preserving and revitalizing local language and culture. Video interviews with local elder Victor Harper, highlight mapping and GIS as valuable, adaptable, and effective tools in supporting community priorities including: language revitalization, use of syllabics, land-based learning, connecting with the ancestral land, and land-use planning. His interviews, as well as the literature review, share the context of this work countering the immense impact of colonialism and the atrocities of residential school system, which forced a break in the natural order of Indigenous knowledge transfer. This research highlights and records the work of these elders, educators and land use planners in their efforts to reclaim not only local Indigenous place names, but their language and culture. Additionally, the process of mapping local Indigenous place names and including them as part of Manitoba’s Geographical Names Data Base, increases the likelihood that Wasagamack’s Anishinimowin language will enter the mainstream lexicon of Canadian society. The research further indicates that tools like mapping and GIS can have a positive impact on safeguarding language and culture, providing a permanency to knowledge that is otherwise retained orally among elders and at great risk of being lost to the world.
Indigenous, Place Names, Language, Culture, Mapping, GIS, Geographical Information Systems,