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What’s in a Name?

14 August 2009

By Dave Wilsey, UMN Extension

Dan Jones, Ojibwe language instructor, shared some of his thoughts about the different names of moons. He stressed the importance of recognizing that there is no “right” name, as that would imply that other interpretations are incorrect. The key is that moon names represent interpretations – sometimes they reflect history, or historical periods. Dan offered the example that one interpretation of the moon that corresponds with February is the “short (month) moon,” a reflection of the modern calendar system…the lunar cycle is about 29.5 days  – no one cycle is shorter than another! Another example is the moon that begins its cycle in the month of December, Little Spirit, likely a name that emerged from Christianity. Names reflect the different events and occurrences that have been important to communities, whether related to the changing seasons, important natural events, important foods and other resources, etc. With understanding language, as with so many other things, perhaps the greatest value lies in discovering why some questions have more than one answer.

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