Adding local indigenous language names to flora and fauna

Hello all!

Looking for some advice on how to go about adding some local indigenous names for the flora and fauna in my area.

In Australia prior to it’s colonisation/invasion, there were more than 500 countries of Indigenous peoples which spoke their own languages. Many of these languages are lost or heading in that direction, though there are also many that are still spoken or being relearnt.

The place I live on the east coast is on Gumbaynggirr country and the language spoken here for thousands of years is Gumbaynggirr language. A local elder recently shared a list of all the indigenous language names for many of the local birds and my first thought was to add these to iNat.

The issue is that the language is not available in the dropdown menu. Is there anyone else who has added indigenous language names before? I assume that this is something that will require the help of the iNat staff.

All comments, questions and thoughts welcome. :)


You should be able to add new lexicon on the new taxon name page.


That’s great, I’ll have a look at that now.
(Of course I missed it when I went looking earlier…!)

Thankyou :)

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Ok, so I managed to add the indigenous name for Brown Goshawk successfully.

My next question is how do I get the Gumbaynggirr language to appear in the language dropdown menu for future names, so that I don’t have to add a new lexicon manually each time?

Otherwise it’ going to be a much more painful process…


I don’t know for sure, but this might just be something that takes a little bit of time to update on the indexing. It might be worth waiting a day or something and seeing if it becomes an option?

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Thanks Chris, good suggestion. I’ll keep an eye on it and report back :)

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It’s always exciting to see efforts like these in making iNaturalist more universal in its utility :)
Best of luck with this task!


I really like this!!! This could be super valuable! I hope that this catches on–I have had the same thoughts about doing this (provided that I have a reputable source from the culture/people itself like you have.)

I know that certain indigenous languages have ISO codes and seen that being used for things like Wikipedia, Wikidata, OpenStreetMap, etc. (Disclaimer: I’m from North America and that’s mostly what I know about, so I’m not sure about ISO codes for Australian aboriginal languages)
Let me know how this goes!


This takes some time, see the forum

Have you asked the Gumbaynggirr elders (plural) if they need and want and consent to this please?

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Good question and yes I have. The information has come largely from the Gumbaynggirr dictionary so it is already publicly accessible, but I have also sought personal permission for both its use online and in public settings locally. Both of these are being actively encouraged by local elders.


You were right! Took some time but is now available! Thankyou :))


Confirmed! It’s now in the dropdown, thankyou :)

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Good news.

Do you actively offer support to Gumbaynggirr elders and all Gumbaynggirr people to build their own capacity (eg. access to funds, paid work, all of life’s basic needs, cameras and smart phones inclusive of quality cameras and GPSs, laptops’ and desktops’ computers, fast broadband internet, etc.),
to themselves have the full capacity and opportunity with their own freedom, well informed consent and control to decide for themselves to use iNaturalist themselves first hand or not use iNaturalist?
Or perhaps to directly use the Atlas of Living Australia, including the indigenous information portals of ALA ?
Eg. ALA indigenous knowledges of animals and plants profiles: .

Excellent example References:

• Ens, Emilie (guest editor)
Guest Editorial Board: Gerry Turpin, Stephen van Leeuwen, Liz Cameron .
(2022 January)
Indigenous and cross-cultural ecology - perspectives from Australia
Ecological Management and Restoration (scholarly journal)
Special issue: volume 23, issue S1, pages: 1-149
Issue Information (PDF): .
Abstracts: "
This special issue brings to readers 16 original contributions that highlight the unique values of Indigenous biocultural knowledge and practice and report on ground-breaking collaborations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers and authors. "
This special issue of EMR contains contributions from participants in Indigenous Ecological Knowledge symposia held at the annual Ecological Society of Australia conferences over a decade to 2020, reflecting increasing cross-cultural and Indigenous-led ecology and management projects across Australia. Much more work needs to be done to increase Indigenous participation and control in Australia’s ecological science discipline and empower Indigenous-led research. "

• Land, Clare (2020 2nd ed.) [2015 1st ed.]
Decolonizing solidarity:
Dilemmas and directions for supporters of indigenous struggles
Zed Books and latterly Bloomsbury Publishing.

• Smith, Linda Tuhiwai (2021 3rd ed.) [1999 1st ed.]
Decolonizing methodologies:
Research and indigenous peoples
Zed Books and latterly Bloomsbury Publishing.

• etcetera .


Thanks for the links, I’ll have a closer look when I get a chance.

Do you actively offer support to Gumbaynggirr elders and all Gumbaynggirr people to build their own capacity

In my own way on a personal level when opportunity arises, yes. On a large scale, no. Since moving and working away from the Nambucca Valley where I was a school teacher for a decade, my direct contact is much less. I still get opportunities from time to time.

Adding the local names was something I thought might be good.

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Yeah sounds good (on face value), yet every major action with culture not of ours we need to ask and specifically check with many elders at least,
and usually also with the sharpest and brightest people in the same generation as ourselves,
and by my example as a 53 year old, also with the younger adult generations – up and coming – :
most responsible people, most currently informed and the high achievers.

Yes that sounds fair to me and I understand that an action taken in a seemingly respectful way is not always respectful, or not always agreed to be by all, cross cultures. So communication is key and I’ve tried to do that the best I can.

I do appreciate the input though, as for me respect is most important.


Mission creep.

If I understand, the purpose of iNat is to record, and get identified, instances of organisms. Not to cater for social inclusion and cultural issues. Not to cater for medicinal and nutritional value of plants. Not to involve itself with potential for bonsai or flower arranging, or pet care.

In another thread of this forum I have objected to the plethora of ‘common names’. They are often very local, not common at all. And worse, often the same name is applied to many different organisms.

In another setting, provision of information for a casual public audience, I do use both ‘common’ and local aboriginal names, but in both cases, there are various conflicts, as per my last par. For aboriginal names, there are various transliterations of the same word, (linguists & diarists who were German, Scottish, English, or semi-illiterate) so I give 3 or 4 alternate spellings. There are often different words used for the same organism, as the local contemporaneous language is an amalgum of several languages of several disparate dispossessed groups. And a different ‘native’ name is provided for different english ‘common names’ for the same plant. It is a mess.

That’s for one ‘language’. The OP indicates ~500 languages. Aust Bureau of Stats and wikipedia indicate >= 250.

My vote would be:
to leave iNat as a science based facility
to drastically reduce / filter out ‘common’ names
to leave social inclusion to be dealt with in a more targeted facility.

And a final PS, Nick’s last just caught my eye.
“action taken in a seemingly respectful way is not always respectful, or not always agreed to be by all, cross cultures.”
or as my neighbour said “youse mobs always tellin us what we gotta want”


The mission statement of inaturalist:

Mission: iNaturalist’s mission is to connect people to nature and advance biodiversity science and conservation.

Connecting people with nature is primary, and advancing science is secondary. To the extent that making content available to people in their language makes it more accessible to them, that serves the primary purpose of inaturalist.

In any language, mapping common names to scientific names will always be a mess because scientific names change constantly while common names with centuries of use are for more stable descriptors of taxa.


I agree with some of what is said here, including that assessing which common names correspond to which scientific names can be difficult and that having common names available on iNat definitely helps iNat fulfill its primary mission.

However, I don’t think that we can uniformly say that common names are far more stable descriptors of taxa than scientific names. Common names also change (just like all language) both in terms of the names themselves, whether they go out of use (or new ones are created), and with previously existing names, which taxa people use them to describe. Both types of names have their own issues.