Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
This proposal presents the results of a collaborative research conducted among the Pekuakamiulnuatsh ("people of the flat lake") from 2014-2017, aiming at a current and intergenerational portrait illustrating the connection to their ancestral territory as a people’s sense of being in a particular geographic environment (Thornton 2008). Located in a today highly industrialized and urbanized area, the Mashteuiatsh First Nation is involved in a comprehensive land claim since 1979 with the Quebec and federal governments and actively works on the revitalization of their local dialect called nehlueun.
By using a language-oriented approach to ontologies based on the participants' words and discourse, this research reveals how the concept of territory is put into words and expressed through the use of different names, including toponyms and the various designations for landscapes used by different generations of Pekuakamiulnuatsh in different linguistic contexts. We argue that these naming practices unveil a linguistic and multidimensional expression of the attachment to land and underscore the importance of recognizing multiplicities of location and place in cultural analyses, as well as the inextricable connections between space, power and knowledge in human societies (Appadurai 1996; Gupta and Ferguson 1997). Trying to decolonize a still prevalent romanticizing vision of their relation to their ancestral territories, the Pekuakamiulnuatsh, engaged as partners in this doctoral research, claim a better understanding of conceptualizations of landscape and their expression in language as a vector for multi-layered territorialities, overcoming and nuancing rhetorics of language endangerment (Hill 2002) at the same time.