Thunder Bay·Audio

'Place where thunderbirds land', billboard reclaims Anishinaabe name

Susan Blight, an artist from Couchiching First Nation in northwestern Ontario is using a billboard campaign to reclaim the Anishinaabe name of Mount McKay, a noted geographical feature in Thunder Bay.

Thunder Bay billboard featuring Mount McKay part of project to reclaim Indigenous place names

This sign, north of the intersection of Churchill Drive and Edward Street in Thunder Bay gives the Anishinaabe name for nearby Mount McKay. (ogimaamikana.tumblr.com)
We'll discover the meaning behind a billboard on Edward Street in Thunder Bay, featuring Anishinaabe language. Susan Blight is one of the people behind that billboard. 5:50

An artist from Couchiching First Nation in northwestern Ontario is using a billboard campaign to reclaim the Anishinaabe name of a noted geographical feature in Thunder Bay.

Just north of the intersection of Churchill Drive and Edward Street in the city is a billboard with a stylized outline of nearby Mount McKay, accompanied by the name Animikii-waajiw.

"The billboard translates to the place where the thunderbirds land, and it's the Anishinaabe name for Mount McKay," said Susan Blight, who now lives in Toronto and is one of the people behind the Ogimaa Mikana project.

Susan Blight is an artist from Couchiching First Nation in northwestern Ontario, and one of the people behind Ogimaa Mikana, an Indigenous language reclamation project. (Susan Blight)

The project is about reclaiming Indigenous languages and places.

"To use these commercial spaces to really centre and privilege Anishinaabe language and imagery and ways of thinking about place," she said.

'Sacred site'

The hope is that people seeing the billboard will understand that the relationship Anishinaabek people have with the mountain is not only historical, but is also ongoing, she said.

"It is a place, a sacred site for the Nishnawbe people that remains so to this day, and remains an important part of our relationship to the land. " 

The billboard campaign, which received funding from the Ontario Arts Council, started in Toronto, with future projects planned for the Peterborough and Sault Ste. Marie areas.

The billboard in Thunder Bay is scheduled to be covered up by the Victoria Day weekend.

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