From the 14th to the 18th of August 2017, the Manitoulin Island Summer Historical Institute (MISHI) will be held in Manitoulin Island, Canada. The theme of this year’s meeting is “Does Wisdom Sit in Places? Sites as Sources of Knowledge”. This event is a joint initiative of the History of Indigenous Peoples Network and the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation. The MISHI is held annually and is designed to bring together students, researchers, and teachers for a week-long investigation of Anishinaabe history and culture. This event may be of particular interest to researchers whose work deals with Native American Names and Naming.
In his study of the place names employed by Western Apache in the American southwest, Keith Basso has beautifully described how the land holds Apache wisdom, as toponyms are abstractions of stories that contain histories, ideas, information, and moral lessons. Learning the names of all the features of Apache places is akin to learning about Apache history, culture, and knowledge. Anishinaabeg likewise use the same device for marking landscape and inscribing knowledge in physical settings. Anishinaabe place names are made up of words marking history, spirituality, and environmental knowledge, all of which make up Anishinaabe cosmology. Alan Corbiere explains that “history as told by the Anishinaabeg uses the land as text book and bible. The land is named, the cliff faces painted, and points along the land serve as portals to summon powerful assistance in times of strife.” Anishinaabe oral historical tradition uses stories, pictographs, and place names to record, interpret and remember significant events and periods. Manidoog, or spirits, play a central role in this history, as they are actors with significant power in Anishinaabe society, helping humans thrive and protecting them from danger. Corbiere asks “when the pictographs have faded or have become inaccessible and unvisited, the bark scrolls locked in a museum, the place names supplanted, the stories untold…will the Anishinaabe still be able to summon [manidoog] in times of strife?”
MISHI 2017 participants will be asked to listen to and think about how Anishinaabe
knowledge inhabits landscape on Manitoulin Island. By exploring the land, petroglyphs,
pictographs, oral traditions, and documentary sources, we will discover if knowledge is
embedded in space or moves around or can be transported and transplanted.