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International Year of Indigenous Languages

As Chairperson of the Geographical Names Board of Canada, I have the privilege of working closely with the federal, provincial and territorial authorities responsible for official place names. Place names are all around us, and record the geographical features of an area as reflected through the language, culture and heritage of the people living there. We use place names every day without considering how they came into being, or what they mean.

The United Nations has declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. According to Statistics Canada, there are more than 70 Indigenous languages spoken in Canada. These languages are fundamental to expressing worldviews, identities, cultures, spiritual beliefs and connections to the land.

Geographical names play an important role in preserving, protecting and revitalizing Indigenous languages and cultures. Indigenous geographical names are highly descriptive, record detailed characteristics of places and features, and convey the intimate connections people have with the land and its resources. Naming authorities of the Geographical Names Board of Canada are actively working with Indigenous governments to research and adopt Indigenous place names, and efforts are ongoing to restore traditional names to reflect the diversity of Indigenous languages and cultures in Canada.

Please join us in acknowledging the importance, value and diversity of Indigenous languages across Canada, and the role they play in shaping our cultural landscape. To learn more about Indigenous place names, please visit Natural Resources Canada, or contact your provincial or territorial member on the Geographical Names Board of Canada.

Thank you. Meegwetch. Ekosi. Marsee. Nakurmiik.

Connie Wyatt Anderson
Chairperson, Geographical Names Board of Canada

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