Chapter 16: The Gwich'in Atlas: Place Names, Maps, and Narratives
Claudio Aporta¹, Ingrid Kritsch², Alestine Andre², Kristi Benson³,⁴, Sharon Snowshoe², William Firth², Del Carry⁴
¹Marine Affairs Program, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
²Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute, Yellowknife, Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic, Northwest Territories, Canada
³GIS/Heritage Affiliate, Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute, Santa Clara, Manitoba, Canada
⁴MDT Communications, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
The full dimensions of Indigenous place names cannot be captured by any representational technique outside of the original context of use. Many limitations presented by traditional cartography, however, have been overcome by new mapping and documenting techniques and technologies. While traditional paper maps could only render geographic location and spelling of an orally transmitted place name, new technologies allow for the recording and presentation of the stories and other information connected to the name.
The Cybercartographic approach goes a step further, creating a digital environment for data integration. The Gwich'in Cybercartographic Atlas can be understood as a framework within which the user is able to build his/her own narrative through the seamless use and connection of different datasets. This paper discusses the potential and limitations of this approach in the documenting of oral spatial and environmental narratives.
Keywords: Cybercartography; Gwich'in; Indigenous knowledge; Indigenous place names.
Figure 16.1 Map of the Gwich'in Settlement Region (GSR) defined by the 1992 Gwich'in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement. The GSR is composed of the Gwich'in Settlement Area in the NWT and Primary Use and Secondary Use areas in the Yukon – Trans-boundary areas shared with neighbouring Aboriginal groups. The area within the square indicates the extent of Gwich'in traditional land use and the place names recorded in the Gwich'in Place Names Atlas.
Figure 16.3 Travelling along the traditional Teetł'it Gwich'in trail between Fort McPherson and Dawson or Mayo in March 1998. This was the trail that the infamous Royal Northwest Mounted Police ‘Lost Patrol’ travelled on in 1911 between Fort McPherson and Dawson and lost their lives. The travelers are approaching a range of mountains called Ddhah Dik'ee (‘mountain-sharp ridge’), which are located north of the Peel River, across from the Bonnet Plume River. Source: Ingrid Kritsch, GSCI.