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Yiri7 re skwestúl'ecwems-kucw: Secwepemc sense of place as language documentation and cultural revitalization

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Title: Yiri7 re skwestúl'ecwems-kucw: Secwepemc sense of place as language documentation and cultural revitalization
Issue Date: 03 Mar 2013
Description: In this paper, the authors report and reflect on their real and virtual travels throughout Secwepemcúl’ecw – Shuswap Indigenous territory in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada - while documenting Secwepemc place naming and sense of place. The latter has involved interdisciplinary, indigenous community driven research throughout the territory to learn about the phonological, morphological and semantic composition of Secwepemc place names, as evidenced in a large data set from 17 Secwepemc communities. Beyond the linguistic taxonomy of Secwepemc place names and place naming, we discuss the system of demonstrative deixis that underlies place naming and wayfinding in the landscape of Secwepemcúl’ecw. It connects indigenous terms for geographic features with locational and directional terms that amount to what we describe as a “Secwepemc Geographic Positioning System.”

Moving beyond linguistic analysis, we explore how place naming indexes and embeds oral histories and traditions narrated in the Shuswap language that anchor personal and collective experience to social, political, spiritual and ecological experience and knowledge. All of these encompass a moral and historical dimension of sense of place. We show how an interdisciplinary approach that combines linguistic and ethnographic methods with indigenous epistemology, but especially with experiential teaching and learning, works well not only to explain Secwepemc sense of place, but also to engage younger generations in revitalizing connection to place. It also motivates their (re)-learning of the Secwepemc language.

Having worked with digital media (google earth, satellite images) to plot place-names, routes and itineraries together with elderly fluent speakers, we will also discuss the strengths and challenges of technology in the documentation of indigenous sense of place. While such digital media provide important and useful ways of locating and pin-pointing places, they represent pale images of the primary sensory experience on the land that connects landscape with ancestors’ narratives of the moral dimensions of sense of place – arguably the most relevant and profound experience of language revitalization. Based on these findings, we will discuss what may be some premises for an integrated theory of indigenous language documentation that stimulates local language revitalization by engaging the sensory and moral practice of teaching and learning on the land with the use of digital technology.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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