Book: Language, memory, and landscape

This  book is currently under production and is being co-edited by Dr Kenneth Pratt (Alaskan Bureau of Indian Affairs) and Dr Scott Heyes. The volume will include a series of chapters that build on papers presented at a 2012 Inuit Studies conference session titled “Language, Memory, and Landscape,” held at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.


Anthropologists have historically treated language as the principal marker of identity among and between indigenous human groups.  During the past half-century, however, steady declines in the number and fluency of indigenous language speakers have made that practice highly problematic; concurrent processes of rapid social change and population centralization further complicate the situation.  Indigenous “identity” is increasingly described in terms of peoples’ connections to place, including perspectives on landscapes.  Often memory-based, these connections are traceable through a variety of means (e.g., traditional stories and first-hand accounts, place names or other linguistic data, and descriptions of particular cultural or natural landscape features).

Papers in this session will explore a broad array of subjects related to indigenous peoples’ relationships to the land.  Possible examples include place names documentation; graphic representations of cultural sites/activities; interpretations of place in oral traditions; and considerations of landscape in archaeological studies.