New University of Maine building and road signage on campus is now bilingual — English and Penobscot.
Signs for Memorial Gym and New Balance Student Recreation Center note the names in Penobscot — attali-milahәyawәlәtimәk — translated as “place where you play a variety of games.” At Fogler Library, awihkhikaní-wikәwam means “book house”; at Wells Conference Center, mawikamikwʷ translates as “community meeting house”; and at Cutler Health Center, sakәlamálsәwakan mawtе translates as “get your health together.”
The project, now in its first phase with the installation of 10 signs across campus and internal signage throughout the halls of UMaine’s Wabanaki Center, developed from conversations between the UMaine Wabanaki Center and Wabanaki communities in Maine over the last few years regarding the relative invisibility of Indigenous people, places, history and languages at the university, and the specific need for Penobscot language signage on the Orono campus.
“One of the goals of the signs is to show students and visitors that the university’s campus is on Wabanaki territory,” says Darren Ranco, director of Native American Programs at UMaine.
A Penobscot Language Signage Committee met regularly in the spring 2018 semester, working extensively on the Penobscot translations, writing historical content for the signage and reviewing Indigenous signage used at other universities. The project plan and translations were reviewed by the Penobscot Nation Tribal Council.
The committee envisions the signage as an opportunity to make the unseen places, people, languages and historical narratives of indigenous communities visible and meaningful, as well as to create a more inclusive and respectful space for native students on campus.
Many of the exterior signs in phase one of the project were designed to create an awareness of place while also evoking the traditional activities of the location and the presence of multiple, living languages.