Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Designation Officer
Place names, or toponyms, are an important aspect of language. At their most basic, place names serve an important role in wayfinding and navigation. They allow us to locate ourselves within the landscape, or, perhaps more importantly sometimes, they allow others to locate us.
Place names also have another often-overlooked role. They are cultural artifacts, containing within them the stories of previous generations. They reveal historical land uses and show the values of previous generations. They connect people to both the present physical landscape and to their own culture, history and heritage.
2019 is the International Year of Indigenous Languages. The United Nations made the designation in 2016 in order to, “draw attention to the critical loss of indigenous languages and the urgent need to preserve, revitalize and promote indigenous languages.” The resolution was adopted by consensus, with no member nation requesting a vote. Member nations have been encouraged to use 2019 to develop and promote initiatives that further awareness of Indigenous languages.