Knowl­edge keep­ers


Canadian Geographic - - CONTENTS - BY JOHN BEN­NETT you

AA NEW MAP­PING PROJECT in Clyde River on the east coast of Baf­fin Is­land is bring­ing gen­er­a­tions of Inuit knowl­edge and decades of sci­ence to­gether at the click of a mouse. Clyde River’s It­taq Her­itage and Re­search Cen­tre is cre­at­ing an in­ter­ac­tive on­line at­las with help from the Geo­mat­ics and Car­to­graphic Re­search Cen­tre at Car­leton Univer­sity. The at­las pro­vides easy ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion that was pre­vi­ously hard to find or sim­ply hadn’t been recorded, in­clud­ing sci­en­tific stud­ies from the area and lo­cal knowl­edge about the en­vi­ron­ment and wildlife habi­tat, his­tory and place names. Over the cen­turies, Inuit have over­laid their land and sea ice with thou­sands of place names, most of which do not ap­pear on any map. Know­ing those names can be key to sur­vival in emer­gen­cies such as a snow­mo­bile break­down in an iso­lated spot. “We use GPS and other de­vices,” says Mike Jay­poody, a re­searcher and IT tech­ni­cian at It­taq, “but if they fail, you need to be able to ra­dio your lo­ca­tion to the com­mu­nity. Once they know the name of the place, the ex­perts can tell you where to find shel­ter, where to find game and so on — and they know where to find if you need to be res­cued.” The at­las, which the com­mu­nity will be able to ac­cess in late 2017, shows more than 300 place names in the Clyde River area, and adds more in­for­ma­tion that Jay­poody and his col­league Robert Kau­tuk have col­lected: videos of el­ders talk­ing about the sig­nif­i­cance of places, their im­por­tant fea­tures and what they were used for in the past, as well as pho­tos that younger peo­ple can use to fa­mil­iar­ize them­selves with these points on the land­scape. “The map presents a huge amount of in­for­ma­tion in lay­ers,” says Shari Fox Gear­heard, a ge­og­ra­pher and re­search sci­en­tist with It­taq. “For in­stance, you can click on a nar­whal mi­gra­tion route and then lis­ten to a Clyde River hunter dis­cuss why nar­whals are im­por­tant and how they be­have. Peo­ple in the com­mu­nity will be able to use the in­for­ma­tion in many ways — for plan­ning, ed­u­ca­tion and es­sen­tial back­ground when con­sid­er­ing pro­pos­als for devel­op­ment projects on their land.” The same map­ping sys­tem is now be­ing used in Cam­bridge Bay, Nunavut, and in other Arc­tic Inuit and Alaskan Yupik com­mu­ni­ties. Pond In­let, at the north­ern end of Baf­fin Is­land, is plan­ning a sim­i­lar at­las, and Gear­heard and her col­leagues will be trav­el­ling there to teach peo­ple how to use the tech­nol­ogy. “It­taq is ded­i­cated to Inuit lead­er­ship in re­search — true com­mu­nity-based re­search led and done by the com­mu­nity,” says Gear­heard. “This is cut­tingedge tech­nol­ogy that’s sup­port­ing valu­able Inuit knowl­edge.”

Mike Jay­poody (left) records an in­ter­view on the land with Clyde River elder Aisa Pi­un­gi­tuq, part of in­clud­ing his knowl­edge of re­gional place names in the at­las.

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