“One of my elders told me, ‘Your tribal territory goes on as far as your language goes and that is what determines your geographic boundaries,'” says Valerie Fast Horse, director of IT, for the Coeur D’Alene tribe in Idaho.
Today, these tribal elders are using the Tribe’s high-speed broadband Internet and digital mapping technology to replace English place names within the reservation boundaries with the original native names.
“Moses Mountain,” for example, is known in the Coeur d’Alene language as “Ch’ts’tene’st” and translated as “Log-like Rock-Cliff.”
81-year-old tribal elder, Felix Aripa, one of the few people who still speak the Coeur d’Alene language, describes another landmark: “They named it Squaw Creek … the thing is, it wasn’t a very honorable name.” Ms. Fast Horse explains, “The word ‘squaw’ is demeaning and derogatory. It is not used in any flattering way … even as a joke, we don’t call each other squaw. It is not funny or cute. It was appropriate that we take our own original aboriginal names and titles and put them back to the names of the places.”