Blackfoot Talking Dictionary
The Friends of Geographical Names of Alberta with the support of the Geographical Names Program, Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, has initiated the Aboriginal Talking Dictionary project as a vehicle for the formal recognition of Native values and traditions within Native lands and beyond their boundaries. The project involves Elders and Aboriginal artists in telling the stories of their People and their Land. The first project completed is Blackfoot Landscape Geography: Niitsitapi Place Names - An Indigenous Talking Dictionary of Alberta Place Names in Blackfoot Country. The project will have a supporting Namedropper Program for grade 4 students that will engage them in the history of the Blackfoot Peoples told through place names.
This resource tells, through the voice of Elder Wifred Yellow Wing and the paintings of Trevor Kiitokii, the Stories of the Piikani Nation - their People and Their Land - just as Aboriginal children have been taught for centuries. The stories are told in either Blackfoot or English and evocative of the way in which traditional knowledge was passed on from one generation to the next around a fire pit or by a stream near a summer hunting camp. The use of the Blackfoot language serves not only as a means of engaging teachers and students in a living language and culture but also as a vehicle for language retention.
The Friends has purposely chosen to have these stories told by the Elder in the same traditional way of Blackfoot People. The Elder is the historian who passes the knowledge of his people from generation to generation. Unlike other cultures that have become more reliant on written history, Aboriginal People in Canada rely almost completely on the oral history. The loss of Aboriginal languages means that we may lose the richness the Aboriginal people of Alberta bring to our heritage. Aboriginal artist Trevor Prairie Chicken makes use of traditional images of the Blackfoot People, the same images used on tepees and the petroglyphs at Writing-on-Stone site.