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Elders’ voices find home on Google Earth: the Stz’uminus Storied Places Digital Atlas


Long before settler culture attached the names of explorers, businessmen and political leaders to the mountains, rivers and landscape we now call Vancouver Island, the traditional names used by First Nations carried a wealth of information about those places—information that anthropology student, Amy Becker, has been working to preserve.

Amy Becker, recipient of a 2013-14 Jamie Cassels Undergrad Research Award (JCURA), explains “Indigenous place names are embedded in the culture, landscape, language and identities of the people who use them.”A place name may contain information about environmental conditions, cultural knowledge and heritage, as well as historical information.

Amy Becker's project on display at the 2014 JCURA Fair

“The goal of the project was to embed videos of elders’ place-based stories into a digital map so community members can continue to listen to the names and stories through computers, laptops and mobile devices,” says Becker.

The Stz’uminus Storied Places Digital Atlas project is a great example of what can be gained through community-based collaboration, bringing elders, youth and university students and researchers together. For Stz’uminus youth, meetings with elders are a rich experience. “The youth really enjoy recording and listening to elders’ stories about place names,” says Becker. “I think they view their elders as stars in their community.”

As she looks ahead to graduation this June, Becker feels a renewed confidence in her research skills and is pleased with her experience in the digital mapping project. She credits her minor in professional writing for giving her practical hands-on skills in editing and web design, and reflects that her co-op terms were also valuable, adding real-life work experience to the mix. And wherever life takes her next, her JCURA research project with the Stz’uminus community means that Becker will continue to listen for the names of the places she goes.

An excerpt from the article by Anne MacLaurin in the March 26th issue of The Ring.

Stz'uminus Storied Places Digital Atlas


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