Puktewe'katik Toney River

In this video, Gerald Gloade shares an example of how MDCC staff follow the clues found in the Mi’kmaw language to help us understand important places in our history and culture.

Very often the Mi’kmaw language holds clues to features of Mi’kma’ki. In this film, Gerald Gloade shares one such story about Toney River, Nova Scotia. Toney River
is recorded in some historical sources as “booktawaagen.” Mi’kmaw linguist Bern Francis explains that today the word is understood and spelled differently. The word for Toney River should be puktewe’katik, which translates to “at the place of fire.” Puktewte’kn is a noun meaning something one might use regularly to strike to cause a fire to begin. A fire striker, in other words. These words stem from the infinitive verb, puktewe’kemk, meaning “to go get fire.” It would be used as follows:

Puktewe’key — I’m going to get fire
Puktewe’ken — You’re going to get fire
Puktewe’ket — S/he is going to get fire

I’-puktewe’kemk means “where one typically goes to get fire.”

This picture shows an example of a Mi’kmaw fire-starter kit with puktewte’kn from the early 20th century. In this example, punk (fungus) is used in place of iron pyrite with quartz to start fires. The note was written by Nova Scotia Museum Curator Harry Piers. Initially, MDCC staff believed that Toney River might be a source for iron pyrite used in fire starting kits. The story we uncovered was a great deal more interesting! From the collections of the Nova Scotia Museum, Archaeology Collections, Halifax, NS.

This picture shows an example of a Mi’kmaw fire-starter kit with puktewte’kn from the early 20th century. In this example, punk (fungus) is used in place of iron pyrite with quartz to start fires. The note was written by Nova Scotia Museum Curator Harry Piers. Initially, MDCC staff believed that Toney River might be a source for iron pyrite used in fire starting kits. The story we uncovered was a great deal more interesting! From the collections of the Nova Scotia Museum, Archaeology Collections, Halifax, NS.

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