weehki-kaloosioni: akwanileehsaakani ‘New Word: Face Mask’

akwanileehsaakani ‘dust mask, face mask, thing that covers the breath’

With COVID still affecting our daily lives and our “new norm” changing the way we act and the things we carry with us, we have been spending time creating new words around this ever-changing environment. We spent some time working with the language team to come up with a word for face mask. In the old records, we found a word that identified the wooden masks worn by a specialized group of traditional medicine people called False Face doctors. However, the cultural importance of those masks and the practices associated with them, led us to conclude that this wasn’t a good choice for our current need. Instead we created a new word: akwanileehsaakani ‘dust mask, face mask, thing that covers the breath.’ We initially thought of creating a word that meant ‘covering the face,’ but thought that it didn’t allow us to differentiate between medical masks and face masks that are used for fun events such as Halloween. With this in mind we settled on a word that meant “to cover the breath”. This also more accurately reflects the situation with COVID, where it is our breath that causes the spread of the disease.

In person and virtual attendees of the Myaamia Heritage Course at Miami University in Fall 2020.
In person and virtual attendees of the Myaamia Heritage Course at Miami University in Fall 2020. Photo credit: Jonathan M. Fox

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