IX. What Language Does Your Land Speak? Indigenous languages as Archives of Biocultural Knowledge.

Session Date and Time: 
Thursday, 9 May 2019 - 1:30pm to 2:15pm
Geography 147
Session Organizer(s): 
Daisy Rosenblum
- daisy.rosenblum@ubc.ca
Spencer Greening
- sgreenin@sfu.ca

This session will focus on the multiple ways that Indigenous languages contain and express histories of biocultural relationships and knowledges of place. We invite submissions from a range of perspectives, approaches and orientations, encompassing community-based and academic research. Relevant topics include, but are not limited to: oral histories of place and relationships to ancestors and other territorial beings; placenames and the Traditional Ecological Knowledge they contain; ethnobiological histories revealed through comparative linguistic study; regional practices of protocol applied in visiting, gathering, and processing; and the development of contemporary language reclamation projects centered in biocultural knowledge and land-based pedagogies. We particularly welcome contributions reflecting on community-centred methodologies and best practices in the integration of language and linguistic understanding to ethnobiological research.

Time Abstract
, Vanessa - Musqueam
, Tara - UBC Botanical Garden including Nitobe Memorial Garden

UBC Botanical Garden is located on the traditional and unceded land of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) First Nation. The 2019 UN International Year of Indigenous Language (https://en.iyil2019.org/) draws attention to the critical global loss of indigenous languages and highlights the urgent need to preserve, revitalize and promote them.  As stewards of plant and biodiversity conservation, botanical and public gardens are well positioned to engage their guests and the broader public in understanding important connections between plants, people, language and culture. The goal of this proposed session is to build awareness of the 2019 UN Year of Indigenous Language and to share stories of how UBC Botanical Garden is collaborating with the Musqueam Language Department to promote public awareness of hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓, the Musqueam language, history and culture through its collections, displays, research, education and outreach programs.

, Ronald - Skeetchestn Indian Band and Simon Fraser University
, Marianne - Simon Fraser University

In this presentation we focus on Secwépemc sense of place as tmicw – our homeland as it refers to geographic place, but also embodies humans, plants, animals and their interactions as sentient beings in the landscape. As a cultural, historical and spiritual landscape it is a storied landscape whose meaning derives from the deeds or experiences of our ancestors marked on the land, what we call stsq̓ey̓: The way our land was marked for us by our ancestors, still visible in features of the postglacial landscape itself, in pictographs and rock formations, but also commemorated in stsptekwll (oral narrative) and place-naming.  For us as Secwépemc, stsq̓ey̓ furthermore articulates these ancestral deeds as our Indigenous law,  our legitimate possession to land, our rights. Based on these concepts of sentient and history-laden landscape, we discuss the implications that dispossession and irreversible changes to landscape have had, and will have for Secwepemc people.  

, Rudo - Amazon Conservation Team

For many forest communities in South America, survival has always depended on an intimate and sacred knowledge of their territory, passed down by their ancestors. Place-based stories help determine where food or resources are located, or where dangers lie hidden, thereby capturing invaluable local knowledge on forest biodiversity. Importantly, the oral histories also reinforce their historical and cultural connection to their homelands, which in turn informs their collective identity. In addition, new research demonstrates that storytelling encourages indigenous peoples to conserve their environments. With the Amazon rainforest facing record-high rates of deforestation and oral history traditions at risk of disappearing, the task of helping forest communities preserve their storytelling traditions is more urgent than ever. I will share experiences and lessons learned working with three forest communities from Colombia, Suriname, and Brazil to help them record and map their oral histories using the novel open-source, offline-compatible geostorytelling application Terrastories.io.

, Andrea - UBC

This paper is situated within the Kwak̓wala Indigenous language spoken by the Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw People of the midcoast of present-day British Columbia, Canada. In this paper, the author describes the methods and development of a land-based language reclamation project as an outcome of praxis-based research. Drawing from a community-based research design, the author studies the Kwak̓wala language from previously published materials as well as new documentation with Elders. The research focuses on the biocultural and indigenous knowledge found about trees and plants within Kwak̓wala by looking at examples from the language’s words, verbs, and sentences.  The author will conclude with approaches and opportunities for sustained cross-disciplinary and community-based dialogue.

, Spencer - Simon Fraser University
, Daisy - University of British Columbia

Placenames are commonly understood to contain Traditional Ecological Knowledge and reference to landscape, but our approach to this information is often structured by a worldview which sees places as dots on a map, placenames as objects in isolation, and knowledge as an extractable resource. Focusing on one of the longest occupied watersheds of the Gitga’at of the Pacific Northwest Coast of British Columbia, Spencer Greening (La’goot)’s home community, this paper looks closely at Sm’algyax placenames in context and in relationship to each other, within stories and situated in Gitga’at territory. For example, Ha’liluumootk, translated as “time or place when safe,” refers to a mountain of refuge during stories of the flood, connecting human history to migration, environmental change, and the resilience of Gitga’at Knowledge. By bringing together field-based research, cartography, linguistic analysis and oral traditions, we better understand histories of human relationship with places and the beings within them.