This Anishinaabe researcher is working to catalogue the traditional names of birds
Joe Pitawanakwat would like to double the about 150 bird names known in Anishinaabemowin
As birds fly south for the winter, birders in Windsor-Essex County are observing them as part of the popular hobby.
But the challenge for Joe Pitawanakwat is greater. He's writing a definitive guide of bird names in Anishinaabemowin.
Pitawanakwat recently worked on a Birds Canada pamphlet that highlights 15 birds with their Anishinaabemowin names. Now, he's working on a larger guide with two other people that will catalogue as many names as possible in the Indigenous language.
"The names are all describing different unique characteristics and sometimes it's flight patterns, and sometimes it's nesting behaviours and sometimes it's physical characteristics," Pitawanakwat said.
"We really want to get this done as soon as we can so we can start capturing what knowledge is possibly left anywhere in Ontario."
Pitawanakwat, who lives in Peterborough but is from Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, teaches plant medicine. He said his bird obsession stems from their ability to help him look for plants he needs for his work.
"They'll only land on certain branches. They'll only sing on top of certain ecosystems where they get their food or where they get their nesting materials. So whenever you hear a bird sing, you can get an idea of the plants that are growing in that area," he said.
"I use birds to find medicine."
The current guide, Pitawanakwat said, is "a citizen science project designed to carry multiple iterations over the years. It's designed to catch what species of birds we have missing to kind of be a resource."
He said they've gathered about 150 names so far and hope to at least double that number with the project. Right now, he said, they are seeking funding to dedicate time to completing the project.
"It's not just going to be me that is writing this. It's going to be constant consultation with a whole host of knowledge holders that deserve to be compensated for the time they dedicate to this project."
In the four following clips, Pitawanakwat teaches common bird names in Anishinaabemowin to CBC's Jacob Barker:
Common Grackle: Asiganaak
Red Wing Blackbird: Meskwaanaage
American Gold Finch: Aginjibagwesi
Sharp-Shinned Hawk: Kekek
Coopers Hawk: Mshikekek
Northern Flicker: Mooningwane
Yellow Belly Sapsucker: Baakwemon