A hand-drawn Inuit map and cel­e­brat­ing 85 years of Cana­dian Geo­graphic

Canadian Geographic - - CONTENTS - By Nick Walker*

A LIFE­TIME ON THE LAND boiled down to lines drawn with colour-coded pens. That’s at least part of what this Arc­tic “re­gional land use” map shows. Cre­ated by Inuit hunter Henry Hok­shun of the Gjoa Haven re­gion in the 1970s, it’s an ac­count of seven decades spent trav­el­ling what looks more like a boun­ti­ful home­land than the bar­ren fron­tier of pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion. Such “biog­ra­phy maps” ex­ist be­cause in 1972, the then-new Inuit Tapirisat of Canada (an Inuit ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion) and Univer­sity of Al­berta anthropolo­gist Mil­ton Free­man pro­posed the Inuit Land Use and Oc­cu­pancy Project to the Cana­dian govern­ment. It was to doc­u­ment past and present Inuit land and ma­rine use in the North­west Ter­ri­to­ries, an area that, pre-nu­navut, made up roughly a third of Canada. Within a year, nearly 150 ad­min­is­tra­tors and so­cial sci­en­tists were vis­it­ing 34 Arc­tic com­mu­ni­ties, bring­ing base maps to and in­ter­view­ing 1,600 Inuit hunters, trap­pers, fish­ers and berry pick­ers. Like other in­ter­vie­wees, Hok­shun used land­marks as ref­er­ences to chart the ranges shown here, win­ter camp­sites and de­tailed hunt­ing ar­eas for 15 Arc­tic species (from berries to muskox) for gen­er­a­tions be­tween 1903 and 1974. This map shows, for ex­am­ple, that geese and other birds were har­vested near Gjoa Haven dur­ing pe­riod 4 (1963-74), while ringed seals were found in ar­eas north of town from pe­ri­ods 1 to 3 (1903-62) and po­lar bears, far­ther north still, in pe­riod 2 (1927-54). Hok­shun’s routes criss-cross and con­tain more than 90,000 square kilo­me­tres of cen­tral Arc­tic — a mas­sive ex­panse ex­tend­ing east into Queen Maud Gulf, west to Pelly Bay and south across the Ade­laide Penin­sula onto the main­land. The project was a clear and com­pre­hen­sive state­ment by Inuit about where their tra­di­tional lands lie and how they’ve used them since “time im­memo­rial,” as the project pro­posal put it. It be­came the model for other in­dige­nous map­ping en­deav­ours, and the maps were even­tu­ally key to Inuit land claim ne­go­ti­a­tions, in­clud­ing the 1993 Nu­navut Land Claims Agree­ment, the largest abo­rig­i­nal land claim set­tle­ment in Cana­dian his­tory.

*with files from Is­abelle Char­ron, early car­to­graphic archivist, Li­brary and Archives Canada

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