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10482 - Of names old and new - naming practices in Nuu-chah-nulth cultural recovery

Names in Northwest Coast cultures are powerful symbols of connectedness to a collective of ancestors and yet a strong marker of individual responsibility. From a Nuu-chah-nulth (Vancouver Island) point of view, a person would be given to an ancestral name, rather than the name being given to a person. After traditional naming had partly disappeared toward the second half of the 20th century, it is currently experiencing a resurgence. Elaborate naming ceremonies have regained prominence in modern Nuu-chah-nulth potlatches. In First Nations schools the introduction of Native language play names has proved to be a good device to instill pride and a positive badge of distinction on Nuu-chah-nulth children and is part of a language recovery strategy. As personal names belong to lineages and thus represent contested resources, modifications of naming practices are taking place as part of their reactivation—so besides the community building effect, there is potential for conflict. A parallel can be observed in the remapping of traditional territories after Treaty. On future government-issued maps, many English place names will be replaced by Nuu-cha-nulth names, and in a similar way Nuu-chah-nulth people will remap their kin networks with meaningful names.

Keywords: Canada, Nuu-chah-nulth, education, names

Author: Kammler, Henry (LMU München, Germany / Deutschland)

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