Place Names as Moral Deeds to Traditional Homelands

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 11 May, 2017 - 13:45
, Eugene S. - University of Washington

Place names are cultural artifacts indicative of the cultural salience and occupational history of land-based communities. Indigenous place names are one key aspect of Traditional Environmental/Ecological Knowledge. I have recorded toponyms of the Sahaptin language (Columbia Plateau) since the 1980s by ethnographic, archival, linguistic and ecological research. I worked closely with the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute (TCI) of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) to publish an atlas (Čáw Pawá Láakni ‘They Are Not Forgotten’) of culturally significant Indigenous places of the traditional territory of three confederated tribes, Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla. We have documented over 500 named Indigenous places, mapped them on the tribal GIS system, analyzed the semantic force of the names, and indicated their cultural ecological and historical significance. These data are being used by the CTUIR to replace certain offensive “colonial names” with Indigenous names and to defend treaty boundaries.