• Land Language Locatives




    Language is the most massive and inclusive art we know, a mountainous and anonymous work of unconscious generations.

    - Edward Sapir -




    Every legend, moreover, contains its residuum of truth, and the root function of language is to control the universe by describing it.

    -James Baldwin-



    The truth about stories is, that's all we are.

    -Thomas King-



  • ABOUT the Project

    Mystery of language affords remarkable power

    - Frantz Fanon-

    Land, Language, Locatives highlights the tragic mis-communication between Native and non-Native peoples in Canada. The recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission brought to public attention the ongoing trauma arising from colonial imposition of residential schools. Our conference is timely because it addresses the integral tie between loss of land, loss of language and the resilience with which First Nations individuals and communities persist in their determination to remain Indigenous. The TRC recommendations are extensive but necessarily piecemeal, reflecting institutional and sectorial divisions, separate discourses, and diverse First Nations boundaries. "Land, Language, Locatives" brings these strands together around questions of mistranslation and consequent cross-cultural mis-communication -- between disciplines of the academy, between the academy and Indigenous communities, between the Canadian legal system and a language- and land-based Indigenous law, and between First Nations and a larger Canadian public.


    Courts and other mainstream institutions increasingly acknowledge that Indigenous peoples have stories about places in their traditional territories. Nonetheless, understandings of land and identity remain mired in taken-for-granted Western assumptions. The storied nature of Indigenous identity and its identification with land must be taken more seriously when demonstrably embedded in culturally meaningful language structures that cannot be translated directly into English. Most First Nations languages insert locatives (markers of location) and personal pronouns within verbal constructions in ways that cannot disentangle statements about land from its relationship to the speaker and their community. These structures usually operate below the consciousness of speakers, but have dramatic consequences for political action, especially about stewardship over land and resources; the credibility of such narratives is enhanced precisely because they are not usually accessible to conscious manipulation.


    Project outcomes advance academic knowledge by moving beyond disciplinary silos of linguistics, political theory, law, anthropology, health and environment to create audiences and research collaborations beyond the academy. Collaboration with First Nations communities, especially their leadership and traditional language speakers, enables ongoing dialogic reassessment of how to move past barriers to mutual understanding. We adopt respect for and accountability to Indigenous protocols of governance and decision-making, facilitate the integration of contemporary oral traditions and pedagogies with archival and ethnographic sources, and work collaboratively to create capacity in communities. Participants include museum, education and research personnel, First Nations community members, and academics across the ranks, including students.


    Our work highlights comparable expressive strategies embedded in similar language structures across diverse First Nations. We explore storied understandings of land and the inalienable relations of people to it that are the essence of Indigenous law. The interface between Indigenous and Canadian law presupposes common commitment to respectful and equitable engagement of diverse legal systems and their underlying political and philosophical agendas.


    Regna Darnell

    Project Lead

    Distinguished Professor of Anthropology

    Department of Anthropology

    The University of Western Ontario



    Joshua Smith

    Project Lead


    Department of World Languages & Cultures

    Iowa State University



    Clint Westmin

    Project Lead

    Associate Professor

    Archaeology and Anthropology

    The University of Saskatchewan


    Rob Wishart

    Research Associate


    Department of Anthropology

    University of Aberdeen



    David Posthumus

    Research Associate

    Assistant Professor of Anthropology

    Department of Anthropology & Sociology

    University of South Dakota



    Angie Bain

    Research Associate

    Union of BC Indian Chiefs/Lower Nicola Indian Band


    Christina Hill

    Research Associate

    Associate Professor

    Department of World Languages & Cultures

    Iowa State University




    Sebastian Braun

    Research Associate

    Associate Professor

    Department of World Languages & Cultures

    Iowa State University




    Margaret Noodin

    Research Associate

    Director, Electa Quinney Institute for American Indian Education

    Professor of English and American Indian Studies

    Book Review Editor, Studies in American Indian Literature

    Co-Editor, The Papers of the Algonquian Conference

    University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee






  • WORKSHOP Vancouver 2019

    Wosk Centre for Dialogue - July 3-5 2019


    Program - Vancouver 2019


    Workshop & Dialogues


    July 3-5, 2019






    July 3rd


    1:00pm - 6:00pm

    Informal Welcome and Social



    Dinner - Location TBD




    The Conference Centre is booked from 1-6. We hope to use this open-ended session to get oriented. Some of you attended the Land, Language, Locative Conference in London and will have a better sense of the range of issues raised there and the loose ends that seemed to need further probing. Others were not able to attend because of unforeseen personal conflicts. And a few have been added to our assembly. We plan to go to dinner with anyone who is interested.


    Please do not feel that you need to prepare anything formal. Some of you have papers that you are working on revising for the conference volume. For everyone, however, the variable isolated around entailments of personhood and land in traditional languages quite different in their specific structures strengthens the claim that English is inadequate to convey the importance of land/traditional territory to Indigenous identity moving into the future. More than specific papers, however, let's try to think about how these issues fit within the larger body of each of our work. All of you are able to talk informally about your work and how it emerges within a community context. Let's see where it takes us.


    In practice what follows is provisional and we can always modify it. Not everyone will be present for the full time so that too will influence.



    July 4th


    8:30am – Breakfast

    Morning Session: Identifying Gaps and Sorting out Intersecting Variables


    12:30pm – Lunch

    Afternoon Session: Language/Language Family Commonalities and Contrasts Areal Patternings, both Traditional and Contemporary - sharing of stories and histories over generations. Specifics of the languages that each of us knows something about will be part of every session but this session will focus on specific mechanisms.


    4:30pm - Close


    6:00pm - Dinner (Location TBD)


    July 5th


    8:30am – Breakfast

    Morning Session: Historical and Ethnohistoric Causes of Parallels

    Intersection of these variables with Language Revitalization Programs.


    12:30 – Lunch


    Pulling it all together and deciding how these discussions will fit into the plan to publish the papers from the LLL Conference. We may want to invite some further colleagues to join the ongoing discussion and/or prepare formal papers. There never seems to be a time that works for everyone, but if we can formulate our questions and tentative answers so that others can join in. The Algonquianists are planning to reassemble in Sept in Winnipeg with a somewhat different sense of what needs to be done.


    4:30pm - Close


    6:00pm - Dinner (Location TBD)




    The LLL conference, sponsored by a SSHRC Connection Grant, grew out of the Franz Boas Documentary Edition, a Partnership Grant winding down over the coming academic year. The project has focused on returning documents from archives to the communities of their origin (Digital Knowledge Sharing) so that they can operate as resources for contemporary reawakening of knowledge that has been lost or not brought to mind. This work is geared to creating capacity within and across the collaborating communities. It takes for granted that communities should control the use and circulation of such materials. Linguists acting as allies over long periods of time in such projects have had an easier time than many outsiders and the results have been useful. This project aspires to go beyond curriculum and language description to look at why and how language is at the centre of so much revitalization work, alongside land. How can we both local (the centre of the world is here, embedded in place) and at the same time global as local knowledges are shared and learn from one another.

  • Questions?

  • LLL

    News | Announcements | Articles | Media  

    All Posts