Indigenous

Map of New Brunswick with Indigenous place names highlights continued presence

A new interactive map created by a Mi'kmaq rights advocacy group is highlighting the continued presence of Indigenous people in New Brunswick and their original names for important locations. 

Mi'gmawe'l Tplu'taqn Inc. says interactive map about promoting Indigenous knowledge and making it accessible

The map shows the Indigenous name of each place. (ArcGis.com)

A new interactive map created by a Mi'kmaq rights advocacy group is highlighting the continued presence of Indigenous people in New Brunswick and their original names for important locations. 

Mi'gmawe'l Tplu'taqn Inc., a non-profit organization representing the nine Mi'kmaw communities in New Brunswick, curated the map in an effort to show non-Indigenous people the continued use of the land by Indigenous people.

Users can click on coloured items to find place names of locations like landmarks, waterways, portages in Pekotomuhkati, Mi'kmaw and Wolastoqew. The English translation of the names is also included.

Tom Johnson, MTI's geographic information system co-ordinator, helped curate the initial map from historical documents and records from ethnographers. Johnson is Wolastoqew from Tobique First Nation, but spent most of his life in Riverview. 

"Through this research, through our Indigenous names, and other things like villages and campsites and portages that are on this map as well, it establishes our presence on the land," said Johnson.

"And it's almost a shame that we have to prove it, but we do."

Tom Johnson says the map is a way to showcase Indigenous knowledge and the continued presence on the land. (Submitted by Tom Johnson)

The current map is just the first iteration and took months to put together. Johnson said they plan on reaching out to knowledge keepers to add more traditional names and the stories behind them.

Johnson is also aiming to share audio files of language speakers saying the place names. 

"We want to foster more Indigenous knowledge and put it into a format that's easily accessible," said Johnson. 

'Always descriptive'

Starr Paul, a Mi'kmaw language educator, said Indigenous place names often reveal exactly what was thought of the location. 

"The Mi'kmaw language is verb-oriented and our language is always descriptive," said Paul, who is Mi'kmaw from Eskasoni First Nation. 

She said Sipekne'katik First Nation translates to "the land of the wild turnip." And MTI's map highlights an area near Natoaganeg First Nation called Nēnădooŏkun, which in English means "where the eels are speared in the mud." 

Starr Paul says studying place names means learning how Mi’kmaw ancestors used the land. (Submitted by Starr Paul)

For Paul, studying place name means learning how Mi'kmaw ancestors used the land and it can offer historical insight. By using the Mi'kmaw place names, these things won't be forgotten. 

"If we don't use it, we're going to lose it," said Paul. 

Paul said she hopes the interactive map can pique people's interest in learning about the Mi'kmaq and their stories.

"Sit down and listen and see what this language has to offer," said Paul.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Oscar Baker III is a Black and Mi’kmaw reporter from Elsipogtog First Nation. He is the Atlantic region reporter for CBC Indigenous. He is a proud father and you can follow his work @oggycane4lyfe

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