Aniin (Hello)! Languages play an important role in the daily lives of all people and contribute to the world’s cultural diversity. But thousands of Indigenous languages have been in danger of disappearing for many years.
We are excited to share that in 2019, the International Year of Indigenous Languages, language preservation is happening all over Pimachiowin Aki. One such example is the work being done by Gerald Neufeld. Gerald grew up in Pauingassi. For almost 20 years, he has been meeting with every community in Pimachiowin Aki and going through ancestral photos with residents to help identify Elders. This is Gerald’s way of giving back. He knows that making a connection to the past is important to current and future generations.
Gerald has been giving presentations to schools and community members, and the Pimachiowin Aki Board of Directors. Pimachiowin Aki is grateful to Gerald for volunteering his time and energy to maintain the language, songs
By documenting our ancestors’ names, we recognize and honour them. This is true, also, of documenting named places.
Each place in Pimachiowin Aki is known, understood and named. Some places are named after the topography or plant life found in the area. Other names reflect the histories of the people who have traveled through, observed, and made use of the land—like Kookooko’oosagasawining (Owl Smoking Island) on Poplar River ancestral lands, named after a woman Elder named Owl, where smoking ceremonies took place.
When my father was describing where he had been, he would say to us kee
’apay namaytoowag, which means he could still feel the presence of people who had been there before. The stories of our ancestors are connected to those places and to us by the place names.
Poplar River First Nation has researched and documented 150 named places, and forwarded them to the Canadian Geographical Names Database so that they will show up on official maps sold to the public, and on popular sources like Google Maps.
Posters line the hallways of
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