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Apostle Islands National Lakeshore adds Ojibwe place names to maps, website

National Park Service

Visitors to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore are familiar with the names of some of the biggest islands, like Madeline Island, Oak Island, and Stockton Island.

But those names are relatively new.

Centuries ago, Ojibwe people started calling them by names in their own language.

Now, the National Lakeshore is including those names in its materials and education.

“The areas all around Lake Superior have traditionally been the homeland of the Ojibwe people,” said Justin Olson, the Deputy Program Manager for Interpretation and Education for the park.

“It’s really important to tell the whole story of this place. The place names are the original names of this place. It’s important that we acknowledge these are the names they’ve used throughout time and are still used in communities today.”

The park’s official brochure and map now features place names in both English and the Ojibwe language.

“As part of the National Park Service, we protect these special places and we want to tell the stories of these places. We want to try to tell as much of all of the stories as we can,” Olson said.

On the park’s website, visitors canhear the name of each place spoken in Ojibwe by former ranger Damon Panek.

“Ojibwemowin is traditionally an oral language, so, for us, it was important not just to see the words but to hear them,” Olson said. “As others have told us, hearing and speaking the words helps preserve that culture.”

The first brochures including the Ojibwe place names were available to the public last year.

With the language offerings, Olson hopes even longtime visitors to the islands can come away with something new.

“They already have a connection to this place. Now, their connection is further,” he said. “Someone who isn’t necessarily Ojibwe, who’s never heard the language or known the language, can describe their trip now in Ojibwemowin.”

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
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