Interactive atlas of Mi’kmaw place names to be unveiled on Treaty Day
28 September, 2015
The most complete geographical representation ever created of Mi’kma’ki—the land inhabited by the Mi’kmaq—will be available online on October 1, Treaty Day.
The efforts of more than 100 people, spanning thousands of hours’ worth of work, over more than five years, will come to fruition when Ta’n Weji-sqalia-tiek: Mi’kmaw Place Names Digital Atlas is unveiled, a Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum initiated project developed in partnership between Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq (CMM), Saint Mary’s University’s Office of Aboriginal and Northern Research, Mi’kma’ki All Points Services (MAPS), Parks Canada Agency (to 2011), and the Nova Scotia Museum, with support from Mi’kmaq Cultural Association (MACS) and Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office (KMKNO).
Within the last decade, the Mi’kmaq have taken several steps through the Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum process to strengthen the use and promotion of Mi’kmaw language. In 2002, a formal resolution was signed and committed all three parties to designate the Smith-Francis Orthography as the official orthography. The resolution was in full support that Mi’kmaw language should be promoted and utilized in public areas and public signage.
“As Mi’kmaw Co-chair for the Culture and Heritage working committee, I got to see this project evolve from a well thought out plan to one of the most comprehensive Mi’kmaw place names databases that holds a treasure of Mi’kmaw knowledge for our younger generation of Mi’kmaq,” explained Tim Bernard, Tripartite Forum Culture and Heritage Sub-committee Co-chair.
“Our initial study for the website revealed there was a long overdue need for an authoritative source to increase awareness of the history and culture of the Mi’kmaq across all social sectors, including and primarily for the Mi’kmaq themselves,” said Dr. Trudy Sable, project director.
The digital atlas includes an interactive map showing more than 700 place names throughout Nova Scotia, and includes pronunciation, etymology, and other features, such as video interviews with Mi’kmaw Elders.
Research was conducted, in part, by interns and youth researchers at Saint Mary’s University. Between 2010 and 2014, 20 of these positions were funded for Mi’kmaw students, by SSHRC, the Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada-Tripartite Forum, and Saint Mary’s University, as well as a number of student grants offered through government agencies and Saint Mary’s.
The team has recorded approximately 1,500 place names collected through interviews with Mi’kmaw Elders and other knowledge holders, as well as from historical documents and dictionaries, primarily those written by missionaries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Approximately 700 of these names have been translated under the supervision of linguist Dr. Bernie Francis.
The youth researchers have been exposed to a wide range of learning experiences and research skill development including language training; recording and mapping place names in interviews with Mi’kmaw Elders and knowledge holders; video editing; mapping skills; setting up databases; and conducting historical research. The names were geo-referenced with supervision from Roger Lewis of the Nova Scotia Museum, William Jones, geomatics consultant for the project, and Dr. Trudy Sable.
The digital atlas will directly support other Mi’kmaw activities, including the development of educational products for schools, and the promotion of cultural awareness about Mi’kmaw people.
Major funding for the project came from two grants awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) with additional l funding from the Tripartite Forum Project Committee, Saint Mary’s University, numerous student grants, and a wealth of in-kind contributions.
“On behalf of the Tripartite Forum, I want to express our gratitude to the project team, especially Dr. Sable who has gone above and beyond to help make this project happen, Wela’lioq!” expressed the Culture and Heritage Sub-committee Co-chair Tim Bernard.
October 1, 1:40 p.m. – World Trade Centre Conference Room – Formal Announcement of project launch by Elder Bernie Francis with Trudy Sable
October 1, 7:30 p.m. – Nova Scotia Museum – reception and “tour” of new website and atlas with Roger Lewis, Trudy Sable, and Bernie Francis, with launch of Mi’kmaw Artist, Alan Syliboy’s exhibit, “Thundermaker.” Reception begins with opening drumming circle.
October 19, 1:30 p.m. – Millbrook Culture and Heritage Centre – Signing of MOU between CMM, MAPS/UNSI, and Saint Mary’s University for the continued development of atlas and website.