A digital atlas and website documenting more than 13,000 years of Mi’kmaw presence in Nova Scotia, including place names, traditional land uses and oral histories, could be available to the public in the next few years.
“The Pjila’si Mi’kma’ki:Mi’kmaw Place Names Digital Atlas and Website will help us to accomplish our long term goal of increasing public awareness of the Mi’kmaw place in the Nova Scotia landscape,” says Tim Bernard, chairman of the Culture and Heritage Working Committee and director of Culture and Heritage, Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq.
The project received a $250,000 Aboriginal Research Pilot Program grant from the federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
The project was initiated by the Tripartite Forum, Culture and Heritage Committee, Place Names Subcommittee, and is being developed in partnership with the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, the Mi’kmaw Association of Cultural Studies, the Traditional Aboriginal Rights Research Center, Saint Mary’s University/Gorsebrook Research Institute’s Office of Aboriginal and Northern Research, Parks Canada, and the Nova Scotia Museum.
The grant was written and submitted by Dr. Trudy Sable, Director of the Office of Aboriginal and Northern Research, on behalf of the Project Team, with technical input from William Jones, project consultant and geomatics expert with ADI, Limited.
The vision of the atlas and website is to raise public awareness and create an authoritative resource documenting more than 13,000 years of Mi’kmaw presence within Mi’kma’ki, the place of the Mi’kmaq.
Much of the research will be conducted by First Nations people, and will include community-based work with First Nations elders and knowledge holders.
Researchers will gather, record, translate, transliterate and map Mi’kmaw place names, traditional land use areas, and oral histories that attest to this ancient history.
The research will form the basis for the development of a sophisticated, digital atlas that will provide a visual display of multiple layers of mapped information to which information can be continually added and updated.
The initial grant is for three years, but the project team continues to apply for other money in order to continue the work and ensure it is a long-term, comprehensive job. The team hopes to have something for the public to view by the end of the third year.
The Pjila’si Mi’kma’ki: Mi’kwaw Place Names 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.
It will form the basis for Pjila’si Mi’kma’ki: Mi’kwaw Place Names Website, a multimedia, interactive, educational website that ultimately will be accessed throughout the world.
“Through the work of the Tripartite Forum, specifically the Culture and Heritage Working committee, there has been a steady rate of progress on the protection and preservation of the Mi’kmaw language.” Bernard said.
He said that in 2002, all three governments signed a resolution for Mi’kmaw Language in Nova Scotia declaring the Smith Francis Orthography as the official orthography within the boundaries of the province.
“The resolution also encouraged the promotion and utilization of the Mi’kmaw language, particularly in public areas and on public signage. As a result, we have begun to see more inclusion in the education system, within the teaching field and on signage.”
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