The meaning behind the name of the N’sheemaehn Child Care Centre at U of T Scarborough (UTSC) is as interesting as the person who helped name it.
N’sheemaehn means younger brother or sister in Ojibwa. According to the legend retold on the daycare’s website, a man and his wife, who have to go to the next village, entrust the care of their youngest child, scarcely more than an infant, to their older children. But the kids get distracted, and the baby goes missing. They search for the infant, calling out “n’sheemaehn!” But he has turned into a chickadee, and echoes back “n’sheemaehn” to remind his family of their neglect.
Another version of this story appears in the book Honour Earth Mother by Basil H. Johnston, a leading Anishinaabe storyteller, former Royal Ontario Museum ethnologist and Order of Canada recipient. Johnston helped name the 24-year-old daycare: UTSC approached him for ideas and the chickadee story, with its emphasis on caring for our young, resonated.
Open year round, N’sheemaehn serves 54 “chickadees” – children of students, staff and faculty, and the public.