By Abigayle Lee, KLT Community Engagement & Communications Assistant
Just before the sun rose over the horizon, KLT staff and over 40 attendees settled into a clearing on this KLT-protected property to listen to the early morning birdsong. Creator’s Garden Birds’ Joseph Pitawanakwat, Andrés Jiménez Monge, and Junaid Shahzad Khan identified the calls of the various birds (over 40 species!) and provided knowledge about them as they called.
As I sat at the front of the clearing, I marveled at how connected I felt to nature at that moment listening to the call of an Eastern Towhee from in amongst the Birch trees and feeling the morning sun start to warm the air. Everyone was eager to learn more from Creators Garden Birds about the birds we heard all around us.
After the Dawn Chorus, the Creators Garden Birds team led three guided walks on the property. Throughout the entire day, over 90 participants joined in to learn more about the region’s migratory birds. More than 50 species were heard or seen during the day, including Chestnut-sided Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Blue-winged Warbler, Whip-poor-will, Song Sparrow, and many more.
Attendees learned about the birds they heard and saw, how to identify them, the birds’ Anishinaabe names, their meanings and histories, and even interesting facts and details about local insects, plants, and plant medicines.
One of the teachings from the Creators Garden Birds’ team was how wildlife gets their names in Anishinaabemowin. They explained that all words are developed by connecting them to other things in nature — a single word gives a deeper description of the subject. Anishinaabe culture believes that nothing is excluded from nature, and that all human interactions and connections are tied to the natural environment.
In English, many species names are developed using the finders’ names, physical characteristics, or the founding location. In Anishinaabemowin, a species’ name is created with its connection to nature in mind.
An example of this is the Raven. In Anishinaabemowin, it is called Gaagaagishiins. When this name is broken down, it is derived from the name for the Hemlock tree (gaagaagwizhaandak), the raven’s favourite place to nest.
“Furthermore, it connects to the name of porcupine (gaak), whose favourite food is the Hemlock tree,” said Creators Garden Birds’ Junaid Shahzad Khan. “Finally, our uvula is called a gaagaagiinh, and is the part of our body that is used when mimicking the sound of a raven (try a little raven scream from the uvula, you’ll see).”
This name provides an incredible understanding of how the raven interacts with its environment, and how we cannot describe ourselves without thinking about all the aspects of nature we connect to, thus providing a deeper understanding of the species.
Earlier in 2023, Creators Garden Birds and Birds Canada, supported by funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Wiikwemikong Heritage Association, developed and released a pamphlet titled “Anishnaabe Bird Names Throughout Anishinaabe-aki.”
This resource includes Ojibwe (Anishinaabemowin) names for birds and some of the knowledge the names hold within them. Each KLT Migratory Bird Day event attendee received a copy. If you’d like a copy of your own, you can order it from the Creators Garden website.
“There is nothing more joyous for us than to share the simplest of interconnections between birds, their names, and Anishinaabek cultural understandings, and watch people who have interacted with nature for decades suddenly look at it all anew,” said Khan.
The theme for World Migratory Bird Day 2023 was water and its importance to migratory birds for everything from drinking and eating to resting and nesting. Kawartha Land Trust-protected lands like Ballyduff Trails provide essential habitats for migratory birds in the Kawarthas, ensuring they thrive now and always.
Thanks to all who joined us for an amazing day of nature connection and learning. We’re grateful for the teachings of the Creators Garden Birds team. You can learn more about Creators Garden and Creators Garden Birds at www.creatorsgardenmarket.ca.
Looking to learn and hear more about the day? You can read journalist Edward Sweeney’s canada-info.ca article and scroll down to download the audio interview.
Main photo: KLT’s Migratory Bird Day Dawn Chorus group photo. (Photo: Abigayle Lee)