about_01In 2010, Ta’n Weji-sqalia’tiek Mi’kmaw Place Names Digital Atlas and Website Project (formerly Pjila’si Mi’kma’ki: Mi’kmaw Place Names Digital Atlas and Website Project) was launched to document approximately 13,000 years of Mi’kmaw presence within Mi’kma’ki, the place of the Mi’kmaq, and to raise public awareness of this ancient history. The project was initiated by the Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum, Culture and Heritage Committee, Place Names Subcommitte, co-chaired by Tim Bernard, Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, and Rob Ferguson, Parks Canada Atlantic Region In 2008, Dr. Trudy Sable, Director of the Office of Aboriginal and Northern Research, Saint Mary’s University (SMU), was contracted by the Tripartite Forum to undertake a study to assess the need and feasibility for the development of a place names web site. The final recommendations from the study were based on input from focus groups within Mi’kmaw communities, interviews and surveys conducted with numerous stakeholders (librarians, government agents, NGO’s, academics, educators etc.), literature searches and identification of potential funding sources, as well as input from geomatics expert, William Jones. The evidence was clear: there was a long overdue need for an authoritative source to increase awareness of the history and culture of the Mi’kmaq across all social sectors, including and primarily for the Mi’kmaq themselves. Final report

Major funding for the project came from two grants awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) with supplemental funding from the Tripartite Forum Project Committee, Saint Mary’s University, numerous student grants, and a wealth of in-kind contributions.  (Funders page). The Partners include the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq (CMM), SMU’s Office of Aboriginal and Northern Research, Mi’kma’ki All Points Services (MAPS), Parks Canada Agency (2008-2011), and the Nova Scotia Museum, with support from Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office (KMKNO) and the Mi’kmaq Association of Cultural Studies (MACS). (link to Our Partners page)

A second, complementary project was launched in 2012, Re-thinking Mi’kma’ki: The Traditional Districts and Cultural Landscapes of the Mi’kmaq, with funding from a SSHRC Outreach Project Grant, the Tripartite Forum Project Committee, and SMU. This project was based on the research of Roger Lewis, Curator of Ethnology at the Nova Scotia Museum, who was assisted by Dr. Trudy Sable, geomatics consultant, William Jones, and youth researcher, Matt Meuse-Dallien. (link to Cultural Landscapes)

about_02A key aspect of our project has been the hiring and training of interns and youth researchers. From Spring, 2010- Spring, 2015, we have been able to fund twenty internships and youth researcher positions for Mi’kmaw students and researchers through SSHRC, Tripartite Forum, and SMU funds, as well as a number of various student grants offered through government agencies and SMU. The youth researchers have been exposed to a wide range of learning experiences and research skill development including language training; recording and mapping place names in interviews with Mi’kmaw Elders and knowledge holders; video editing; mapping skills; setting up databases; and conducting historical research. (link to Youth Researchers page).

To date, the research team has recorded approximately 1,500 place names collected through interviews with Mi’kmaw Elders and

about_03other knowledge holders, as well as historical documents and dictionaries, primarily those of Father Pacifique and Silas Rand, missionaries to the Mi’kmaq in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Approximately 700 of these names have been translated and transliterated into the Smith/Francis orthography (spelling system) under the supervision of linguist, Dr. Bernie Francis. These names have then been geo-referenced by our youth researchers with supervision from Roger Lewis of the Nova Scotia Museum, William Jones, geomatics consultant for the project, and Dr. Trudy Sable. The names were then entered into a database as the basis of the digital atlas and interactive maps featured on this website. We have also developed numerous map layers for cross-referencing physiological and cultural/historical information as can been seen on the interactive map.



The digital atlas will directly support other Mi’kmaw activities including the development of educational products for schools and the promotion of cultural awareness about Mi’kmaw people. The digital atlas also forms the basis for Ta’n Weji-sqalia’tiek Mi’kmaw Place Names Website.  We envision this website will become a multimedia, interactive, educational website that will be accessible throughout the world.