Mapping Traditional Knowledge: Digital Cartography in the Canadian North

Journal Title  – Cartographica: The International Journal for Geographic Information and Geovisualization
Volume 48, Issue 3, Page 189  – 199
Issue Cover Date  – 2013-01-01
DOI  – 10.3138/carto.48.3.1685
Link  –

Nate J. Engler, Teresa Scassa, D.R. Fraser Taylor


Digital cartography offers exciting opportunities for
recording indigenous knowledge, particularly in contexts where a
people’s relationship to the land has high cultural significance.
Canada’s north offers a useful case study of both the opportunities and
challenges of such projects. Through the Geomatics and Cartographic
Research Centre (GCRC), Inuit peoples have been invited to become
partners in innovative digital mapping projects, including creating
atlases of traditional place names, recording the patterns and movement
of sea ice, and recording previously uncharted and often shifting
traditional routes over ice and tundra. Such projects have generated
interest in local communities because of their potential to record and
preserve traditional knowledge and because they offer an attractive
visual and multimedia interface that can address linguistic and cultural
concerns. But given corporations’ growing interest in the natural
resources of the Arctic and the concomitant rise in government concern
about claims to Arctic sovereignty, such maps may also be of interest to
a broad range of actors and for a variety of purposes. Because these
projects rely heavily upon, and record, oral knowledge, and because they
convert such knowledge into highly malleable and easily disseminated
digital content, they raise challenging issues around informed consent,
intellectual and cultural property, and privacy. This article identifies
and examines these issues and describes the collaborative and
interdisciplinary research established to identify and address the use
of traditional knowledge in digital cartography.

cybercartography, intellectual property, traditional knowledge, informed consent, privacy, indigenous mapping

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