Here On Future Earth (2009)
otē nīkān misiwē askīhk – Here On Future Earth (Plains Cree)
Language is sacred and alive.
“Here On Future Earth” is a photographic project by Joi T. Arcand that depicts everyday Saskatchewan towns, cities and First Nations with a twist: all of the English signage has been translated into Plains Cree syllabics and transposed into the image. The locations share an everyday Saskatchewan aesthetic – a town hall, a gas station, an ice cream stand, restaurants and hotels. The dreamlike quality of the images evokes a feeling of nostalgia – however, it is clear that these images are from an imaginary or alternate history; a parallel universe where First Nations languages are thriving and visible in everyday life.
The destruction of language and culture that occurred among First Nations people during colonization is astronomical. Statistics report that 30% of First Nations languages are endangered. Many First Nations languages were exclusively passed down through the oral tradition; however, the urgency of language retention in contemporary times has compelled the need for standardized writing systems, and as a result the written word has become an important part of language preservation. Viewers are not required to be able to read the text in the photographs – it is their inability to read the text that demonstrates the urgency for First Nations revitalization in Canada. As viewers become aware of their own inability to understand – the message becomes clear: First Nations languages are in danger of becoming extinct.
Read interview on CAPYI Magazine website here
For more information about Plains Cree syllabics go here
This online Cree dictionary is also an invaluable resource
Here On Future Earth was made possible by the generous support of the Saskatchewan Arts Board – Indigenous Pathways Initiatives grant.
All images copyright Joi T. Arcand © 2004-2011. All rights reserved. Do not use without permission.