Saturday, February 4, 2012

Did We Name Living Things the Best Way?

     With all due respects to Carl Linaeus and all life scientists past and present, I would suggest that we should or should have used the names aboriginals had for living things. Now I'm not suggesting that we abandon Linaeus's system. Linaeus's system works extremely well and is accepted and used world wide.

     When Europeans first went out to discover the world , settle it and tame the original peoples, they also took it upon themselves to not only name living things but to "discover them." Well, I have news for you ! Most living things were known by the original peoples in any part of the world. More than that, most living things had been named. And further than that, the original people had a very great knowledge about the living things. So because living things had names , why did Europeans take it upon themselves to rename things? This is where I suggest that we should or should have used the names for living things that were first given to them.

     Not only were the living things known and named but also the geographical locations were well named. Maps were in their heads. The other day I was writing about an  Inuit settlement I had lived in. When I was there it was called Wakeham Bay. Today it is called Kangiqsujuaq which means very large bay. That's exactly what it is ...a very large bay. The bay is 25 miles long and 8 miles wide at it's widest. So the original name makes much more sense. Mr Wakeham came along and since he didn't find anybody there decided to leave his name on it. Original place names were very descriptive and helped with finding the location. Having traveled with Inuit in both the eastern and the western Arctic I soon found out that they didn't bother with our maps, and had names for places and didn't have any difficulty to get anywhere they wanted.

     If we look at birds for example, we find all kinds of people who pinned their name to a species that had already been named...Spraque, Baird, Franklin, Bonepart, Thayer, Forster, Lewis, Wilson...and many more. These birds were well known and named before any of these people saw them. The Palliser Expedition occurred in western Canada in the 1860's. Much scientific work was done. It's amazing what these people did and what was found. They knew the plant families and classification, but since it was a new species to them they took it upon themselves to name it.

    Where I live the Cree language is still in use and quite healthy. Names for places and things are still very well known in their culture.

    If we use peyote as an example, we've kept the original name with a little bit of change. Peyote is classified under the Linaeus system with Latin names but the original name is used for the common name. Original peoples knew that peyote was good for many things. It has been proved scientifically that they were correct.

     So since many of the original names were very descriptive,  I think that we should have made an effort to find out what they were and use them.