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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

Wisdom of the Ages: From 'Houses' to Monsters', the Naming Practices of the Coast Tsimshian First Nation

Author(s):
S Thunderbird
Teya Peya, Canada

Prior to European contact, there were no written indigenous languages. Canada's First Peoples relied on the 'truth' of ancestral oral narratives passed down through thousands of years of observation, knowledge, wisdom and experience. The cultural practices of the Coast Tsimshian people were deeply rooted in our reverent relationship with nature. Place, geographic and tribal names that included clans, crests, sub-crests, wonders and privileges were based on this close relationship. For example, the thoughtful giving of a name reinforced and accelerated each person's progress toward her/his highest destiny. As a result, at the time of birth, weather patterns, the time of year and the role of the family in tribal life formed the basis for naming. As it is, the widespread use of traditional indigenous names all across Canada is commonplace. "Canada" itself comes from the Mohawk word, "Kanata" meaning "Community." The central focus of the presentation will be on the indigenous principles of naming that include cultural and spiritual insights, and the historical understanding of the meaning of the name at the time of bestowal.

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