The Musqueam Place Names Map
In an earlier post about learning one of Vancouver’s local Indigenous languages, hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓, I reflected that if I had learned the original names for the places around me as a child, it might have led to a deeper understanding of our local history and cultures. Well, today children and adults alike can learn the original hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ place names, language, and history of Vancouver with the Musqueam Place Names Map.
The interactive map shows the place names in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓, and allows users to view historical photographs from the places, listen to fluent speakers talk in the language about the places, and read or listen to a children’s place names book while following the story across the map.
How to read hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓
hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ is an oral language that had no formal writing system before colonization. Many different linguists have developed many different orthographies for the many different oral languages around the world. For hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓, the preferred writing system uses the North American Phonetic Alphabet (NAPA) which has some symbols that are the same as, and others that are different from, English. The nice thing about NAPA is that once you learn the symbols, you can pronounce any word in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓, as well as words in several other languages that use the same orthography.
Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) Place Names Map coming soon too!
The Musqueam are one of three First Nations whose territory includes modern-day Vancouver. The other two are Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish. I am excited to be working right now with Kwi Awt Stelmexw, a non-profit dedicated to strengthening Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) language, art, and culture. I will write more about this work soon, but one of the very cool projects currently underway is the creation of an interactive Skwxwú7mesh Place Names map. Check out the Squamish Atlas project!
Using place name maps with students
I recognize that not everyone shares the same love of language maps as I do, so here are a few ideas of how you might use these and similar maps as teaching tools:
- In language education: the place names can be used for pronunciation practice (I’m currently using it to learn to read NAPA). Students could also work together to figure out the meaning of the place names based on linguistic information.
- In social studies: use the maps to facilitate a deeper understanding of local history and current events. Students could work on projects where each student or group is responsible for presenting one of the places on the map, and describing its current or past events (my friend Carina's current events activity could be adapted for this).
- In general: this kind of map is a great resource in place-based education, which advocates for "learning that is rooted in what is local - the unique history, environment, culture, economy, literature, and art of a particular place". This approach promotes learning through hands-on projects in the local community. Here are a few examples of place-based curricula from Alaska.
What are other ways that place names can be used in education? We would love to hear your ideas!