Our Youth Researchers
Our Youth Researchers (by order of length on the project)
A core component of this project was to ensure “capacity building” occurred for Mi’kmaw First Nation youth. Throughout the course of this four-year project, we have provided internships and funding for twenty First Nations internship and research positions. We were fortunate that some of the youth researchers were able to return to work on the project and become valuable, long-term researchers in their own right. All the interns/researchers underwent training for the many aspects of the projects. The training included:
Video Interviews with Elders:
The interviews with Mi’kmaw Elders and other knowledge holders required the youth researchers learn and be conscious of a number of stages in the interview process—finding people willing to be interviewed and setting up the interviews; the ethics and protocol involved in conducting the interviews, e.g., respectful conduct, completing consent forms, offering honorariums, etc.; and the challenges
of setting up equipment for recording the interviews, some in kitchens, others outdoors, and some in the board room at the Gorsebrook Research Institute for Atlantic Canada Studies(GRI) at SMU. The interns also had to learn to use the equipment itself, the video cameras and microphones, laying out the maps for the interviews, and generally trying to create a focussed, respectful, and friendly environment for the Elders and other knowledge holders who were interviewed. Trudy Sable oversaw this aspect of the training
Dr. Bernie Francis, Linguistic Consultant for the project, also trained the interns on the basic nature and structure of the Mi’kmaw language. Though none of our interns spoke Mi’kmaw with the exception of two, Dr. Francis felt it was important that they had a sense of the fundamental grammatical structure of the language for conducting the interviews and understanding the place names.
Database Entries and Geo-Referencing
One of the core and challenging aspects of the project was to set up the database and enter each place name, its geo-reference, each newly transliterated and translated name, along with the source from which the place name was taken. The youth researchers and interns also learned how to use maps and find the precise geo-references for the place names shown to them by the Elders during the interviews, and then enter them into the database. This required them to learn how to use Google Earth to find the Northings and Eastings and also how to set up and work with a database. There was much iteration to this process. William Jones, geomatics consultant to the project, oversaw aspect of the initial training with assistance from Trudy Sable. The youth researchers themselves became quite adept over time managing the database.
Learning about the Landscape and Field Trips
Since many of the names did not have English equivalents, we also relied a great deal on Roger Lewis of the N.S. museum who has travelled all throughout Nova Scotia doing archaeological research. Since many of the Mi`kmaw place names are descriptive of specific landscape features important to the Mi`kmaq, it was important that their names fit the place they were describing. For instance, a name of a river might be translated as “rushing over rocks” but that describes only one area of the river. Or, it might describe “a place of tomcod” or other resources important to the Mi’kmaq. Because of his knowledge of the landscape, Mr. Lewis could help pinpoint the precise location of the names to fit the descriptions. Our field trips
became a fun and important way for our team and the youth researchers to experience the ancient travel routes and physically be at specific sites, including Grandmother Rock sites. Roger Lewis and Trudy Sable organized three canoe trips on the Shubenacadie River (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4kvcrLwo6M). Justin Lewis also visited the Franklin Manor area of Nova Scotia with Mr. Lewis, and Mr. Lewis also guided many team members around the Gaspereaux Lake, perhaps the most ancient site in Nova Scotia, and the site of a hydroelectric dam development.
Historical and Archival Research was also an important part of the training. Mr. Lewis took some of the youth researchers to the Nova Scotia Archives to get them acquainted with the different collections that could be used in creating the information sheets for the different place names. Dr. Sable also worked closely with the researchers in finding resources.