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Traditional Land‑use Knowledge of Canadian Arctic Inuit

Posted by Marine Affairs Program on June 21, 2018 in News

A user-friendly web atlas that details Inuit traditional and current uses of territory in the Canadian Arctic has been launched today. Available for free on the web, the Naonaiyaotit Traditional Knowledge Project Atlas is an important outreach and educational tool for sharing the deep knowledge and history of the Kitikmeot Inuit in Canada’s Central Arctic.

This collaborative project was developed between the Marine Affairs Program at Dalhousie University and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association (KIA), with the engagement and technical support of Esri Canada and financial support provided by Dominion Diamond Mines ULC.

The atlas contains a selection of material obtained from hundreds of interviews, photographs and mapping sessions conducted in the context of the Naonaiyaotit Traditional Knowledge Project (NTKP). NTKP was initiated in 1996 during the environmental assessment for the proposed Ekati Diamond Mine, in a partnership between Kitikmeot Inuit organizations and BHP Billiton (BHPB), which provided most of the financial support. Dominion Diamond Mines ULC, the current owner and operator of the Ekati mine, continues to provide funding to the project.  

“This atlas is another way to show the extent of use and complexity of the knowledge that Inuit have over the land and marine spaces where they live. It also shows how new geographic information systems technologies can be used to document well-established oral traditions,” says Claudio Aporta, director of the Marine Affairs Program and of the MAP VisLab at Dalhousie University and lead investigator on this project.

Stanley Anablak, President of Kitikmeot Inuit Association said “The NTKP is a valuable collection of traditional knowledge from our elders about land use, wildlife, and ways of living.  Traditionally this information has been passed down orally from generation to generation.  With new technologies we are able to present and share this valuable information in a new format that can be used for educational purposes, for cultural programming and for heritage preservation.  We can also use this traditional knowledge for mitigating the impacts of development in the Kitikmeot region.”

Powered by Esri’s ArcGIS Online technology, the atlas presents a selection of Inuit Traditional Knowledge (TK) for the Kitikmeot region through interactive maps, compelling images and narrative text. Users can navigate through numerous tabs on the atlas to explore a broad range of traditional knowledge—from place names and traditional trails, to their knowledge and interactions with terrestrial and marine mammals, fish and birds.  It also showcases the complexity and depth of the Kitikmeot Inuit knowledge, demonstrating the extent to which the full territory (marine and land areas) has been systematically used for centuries.

According to Dr. Brent Hall, Director of Education and Research at Esri Canada, “Using GIS technology on the Internet provides an efficient means for sharing Kitikmeot Inuit knowledge with a broad audience. The customized Esri ’story map’ user interface that was developed for the atlas allows users to learn, through the activities and words of the Kitikmeot Inuit, a rich and compelling visual story of Inuit wisdom and life in Canada’s most remote environment.”

Explore the atlas: