Excerpt: 'Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada'
In his essay for the new educational resource, storyteller Michael Kusugak reflects on what place names can tell us about language and culture.
"Nunannguaq: Capturing the Character of Our Land"
By Michael Kusugak
Nunannguaq is the Inuit word for map. It means “representation of land.” Like other peoples around the world, we have always carried maps in our minds. I come from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, these days. I have been carrying around a map of the area in my mind since my cover of Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canadauncle Ussak told me, “Always look behind you so you will know how to get back.” That was shortly after we arrived there in 1960. My map has been growing since.
Another uncle, Kolit, had a map of the Rankin Inlet area tacked to his wall. He referred to it constantly. I asked him once why west was up top and east was on the bottom. He said that was the way it should be — land up top and sea, Hudson Bay, down on the bottom. Which was why, I suppose, my mother always said, “Down at Coral Harbour.” Even though Coral Harbour is to the east of Rankin Inlet, it is “down” at Hudson Bay. My uncles and my mother could not read the names of the places anyway. They could read only Inuktitut syllabics.