Original Indigenous place names collected in Manitoba
New project trying to track down Indigenous names and reapply them to geography
Some people might know Pekwachnamaykoskwaskwaypinwanik Lake, located south of Red Sucker Lake near the Ontario border, for its trout fishing but others might recognize it for its long Cree name.
Pekwachnamaykoskwaskwaypinwanik translates to "where the wild trout are caught by fishing with hooks."
A new project launched in the province is trying to track down Indigenous names and reapply them to some of Manitoba's geography.
"It's an opportunity to recognize Indigenous names, traditional Indigenous names across Manitoba," said provincial toponymist Des Kappel.
"To recognize the history, the cultural impact and the footprint of indigenous people in Manitoba. It's really preserving, recognizing and remembering a part of our history that hasn't been particularly well captured on an official provincial level in the past."
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The provincial initiative has plans to promote Indigenous place names across the province, but that may take some time. Kappel said he has been working closely with Poplar River First Nation, located on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, to learn the names and their spelling.
With many of the names captured through oral traditions, Kappel has learned he may be too late to find them all.
"Unfortunately this project is starting a little late, as my communication with Poplar River identified," he said.
"If we had done this 10 or 20 years ago we would have had a lot more information just because some elders, some community members passed away, that had some knowledge that is no longer recalled."
The ones he has learned about each hold a special story or tradition. One example is a little island on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. Its name translates to Owl Smoking Island.
"The history behind that is it's actually an elder who went by the name of Owl conducting smoke ceremonies on the island," he said.
"I find that really fascinating that there's this whole history and knowledge of the use of the land. That clearly had some sort of sacred importance and value to the community there."
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Beyond learning about the interesting stories of Manitoba's history, the names gathered will be entered in the Manitoba and Canadian geographical names database, available to cartographers around the world.
For the country's 150th anniversary, the Geographical Names Board of Canada is producing an Indigenous map of Canada and many of the names will be included.
In the long term, Kappel said it's an important way to preserve the province's pre-contact history, which too often is forgotten. He said there will be a digital version of the map and they hope to make it available to schools and other institutions.