Indigenous mapping technologies: the past, present and future and future of the collaborative geomatics web-based tool

  • Holly L. Gardner-Youden
  • Christine Barbeau
  • Daniel D. McCarthy
  • Vicky Edwards
  • Donald Cowan
  • Leonard J.S. Tsuji
Keywords: indigenous knowledge, mapping, technology, intellectual property, indigenous peoples, empowerment, environmental planning, Canada, artic regions, land use


Cartography provides a way of presenting information about the physical environment, cultural features, patterns of occupancy, resources and boundaries. It is also a tool that has been manipulated by power and colonial interests, particularly in the context of indigenous mapping (see J. Bryan, 2009, ‘Where would we be without them? Knowledge, space and power in indigenous politics’, Futures, 41, 24–32). Strengthening the role of indigenous knowledge in the development of community mapping has been identified as critical to advancing the interests of traditionally marginalized groups. As this demand for novel approaches to community mapping has increased, new technological mapping tools have been created for marginalized groups. This article presents a novel collaborative geomatics tool created to advance mapping initiatives in First Nations communities in Canada's sub-Arctic regions, while protecting and enhancing indigenous knowledge and protecting intellectual property. The collaborative geomatics tool is a secure web-based mapping tool. This tool combines high-resolution satellite imagery with social networking capabilities. Thus, the collaborative geomatics tool provides a forum for community members to post, discuss and contribute to a centralized repository of information by inputting the following: high value areas; areas of natural, spiritual and cultural interest; traditional hunting, trapping and fishing areas; infrastructure; safety zones; stories (audio/written/video); photographs; and polygons and other such markers to delineate these important areas. The present article will identify the process used to design the system and the dynamic opportunities available to use this system once implemented.


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