A NEW DIGITAL ATLAS OF INUIT PLACE NAMES, WILDLIFE HABITAT AND MORE IS COMING TO CLYDE RIVER, NUNAVUT
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.