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GIS, Some Coast Salish, and a Grilled Grouse

by Russell Collier

Not long ago, I had the pleasure of going to see three different Aboriginal GIS shops and talking with their technical people. The three First Nations' offices I visited were the Sto:Lo Nation, the Tsawassen, and the Tsleil Waututh, located, respectively, in Chilliwack, Delta, and North Vancouver. They are all different, and all three had interesting and exciting things to show off. Additionally, I had something to share back with them. But that's getting ahead of my story.

First stop was the Sto:Lo Nation office, where Leeanna Rhodes and Laura Brown welcomed us into their world with a cheery, non-stop chatter of excitement and interesting stories. Their office is part of a large, well-organised, well-funded government structure, and their work has truly benefited by it. For one thing, they have data - lots of it. For another, they are able to work within a larger vision, and have pretty much an open hand when it comes to fulfilling their piece of the vision.

One of their show-stoppers would have to be their cultural atlas. They have obviously poured heart and soul into getting this project finished. The atlas is being professionally published, incorporating numerous archival photos, charts and graphs, background text, and of course, beautiful maps. When this book comes out, be sure to stop by their office and ask to see the final product. It is impressive.

Also impressive is their grasp of Arc/INFO and Arcview mapping. These ladies know their stuff. I am sure anybody stopping by their place will learn something new and will take away an strong impression of just how good an aboriginal GIS office can be when properly supported.

Next stop was the Tsawassen GIS office, headed up by Andrew. He's a one-man GIS show all by himself. The Tsawassen GIS shop does not have the bells and whistles of the Sto:Lo shop, but it makes up for it in sheer ingenuity. People outside the lower mainland probably know Tsawassen as the site of one of the two big ferry ports in the big city. And this helps define the special characteristics that make the Tsawassen band unlike any other. For one thing, they are surrounded on three sides by Delta, a huge, multi-ethnic city suburb sprawl. For another they are hemmed in by the Pacific Ocean on the fourth side.

This Nation has to deal with a very hefty Urban Treaty orientation, and that has affected their GIS work. Andrew showed us mapping that hints at the complexities of marine resource pitted against city sprawl. Not easy. But a worthy challenge.

The Tsawassen have worked with UBC to develop a TUS MS-Access database that allows Tsawassen members to access their data from anywhere within their network, and query it. This group (and Andrew) is ample evidence that being an urban Nation with limited budget does not necessarily mean limited imagination or lack of inspiration. Andrew shows a hungry and opportunistic spirit in acquiring and using GIS technology. Thank you, Andrew. I'd happily geek with you any day of the week.

Next stop was the Tsleil Waututh GIS shop in North Vancouver. Actually, the tables were turned this day, as I was teaching an introductory session on using high-end desk-top publishing software to finish off GIS produced graphics. You see, the Tsleil Waututh have this Atlas. It's a Bioregional Atlas. Pioneered by Doug Aberly, the bioregional approach to mapping permits decision-makers to understand land usage across a sufficiently broad spectrum of land uses such that they get a reasonably full picture.

The Tsleil Waututh have had GIS guy Mike George working alongside Ecotrust's GIS guru gal, Leah McMillin to produce their Atlas. Leah has moved on to other futures in her hometown of Victoria, and the Tsleil Waututh have hired another GIS guru gal to help out - Siobhan Murphy (help me if I spelt your name wrong). It's pronounced phonetically as "shi VOHN" and it's as Irish as you get.

Mike and Siobhan have direction from the Tsleil Waututh leadership to explore producing their Atlas using in-house desktop publishing techniques and software. An atlas is expensive to produce at best of times, and anything that can be done in-house is worth exploring. I walked the group of us, Tsleil Waututh, Tsawassen, visiting Heiltsuk and Ecotrust GIS reps, through exporting graphic map images from ArcView into a variety of formats that a truly Canadian product, CorelDraw, can handle. And then I worked with the images to show text, photo, vector, bitmap, and database handling capabilities offered by that truly Canadian DTP product. The Tsleil Waututh Atlas project offers much promise and interest for some months to come.

So what about the Grilled Grouse? How does that fit in? I was hoping you'd ask. As a car-load of us headed off to Chilliwack and the Sto:Lo, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but alas, without breakfast, we became increasingly hungry. With a fine disregard for the many Ronald MacDonald and Tim Horton's Doughnuts places we passed, Ecotrust driver, David Carruthers insisted on driving as fast as possible by these abodes of dining splendour.

En route, to while away the hungry, hungry hours, we instead dwelt upon such possible road-kill delights as Pressed Porcupine, boiled Moose Nose, Diesel-Smoked Deer, and who could forget…Grilled Grouse. This last dish is particularly easy to prepare…it's where the Grouse flying across the road becomes embedded in your car Grill, and becomes both wind-dried and roasted in one simple step. Thank you David for finding a way for us to share so many great ideas for unusual but probably fulfilling breakfast ideas hour after hour after hour…next time, I think I'll bring a sandwich.

And if any of you out there have innovative breakfast ideas of your own, please feel free to share them with us here at the Aboriginal Mapping Network.


GIS, the Ifugao, and a Moose

by Russell Collier

She starts out by saying, "Go to the people with your GIS and see what happens". That was the first advice Rhodora M. Gonzalez got from Prof. Röling when he saw her proposal. She wanted to do research on indigenous knowledge in natural resource management and formalise it into a geographic information system for development planners. And thus begins the remarkable journey of Rhodora and the Ifugao people of the Phillipines as they explored participatory use and development of a GIS in joint-learning about the environment.

And thus also begins a remarkable book, entitled "Platforms and Terraces: Bridging participation and GIS in joint-learning for watershed management with the Ifugaos of the Phillipines" (ISBN 90-5808-246-6). The book is inspiring for its clarity, its inclusion of many maps, charts, and diagrams, as well as for its highly organized content. Rhodora Gonzalez engaged with the Ifugao in what she termed a "spatial dialogue" in order to elicit knowledge of their traditional agricultural practices, and then to design a geographical information system that worked for these people. She says, "The starting point in developing an information system is understanding the process it will strengthen". She also says that, in order to construct a model to understand how their traditional natural resource management works, it is crucial to involve the people in the design process, and it is crucial because it determines whose world view is served by the created information system.

The book is © 2000 Rhodora M. Gonzalez, and represents her thesis to fulfill the requirements for her doctoral degree. This is a book I urge GIS users and TEK researchers, aboriginal or not, to acquire, read and take heart from, if you can find it. Because it is a thesis book, no matter how good it is, and it is a very good book, it may be difficult to lay your hands on a copy.

All is not lost however! We have a new book available that is drawn from experience much closer to home, that is geared to helping us conduct our own credible research, and that can be downloaded from this very same site today!

He starts out by saying, "Aboriginal peoples in Canada have been mapping aspects of their cultures for more than a generation". The sidebar reads, "Think of it as the geography of oral tradition". This is a book written from "nearly two decades of experience designing land use and occupancy mapping projects, and working with indigenous peoples at the community level to collect the data they need".Written and © 2000 by Terry N. Tobias, he had one purpose in mind - create a practical guidebook, and make it relevant to Canadian Aboriginals. And he does that admirably. It's also good reading.

And thus begins another remarkable book, entitled, "Chief Kerry's Moose: A guidebook to land use and occupancy mapping, research design, and data collection" ISBN 1-896866-04-2. This book is inspiring for its clarity of writing as well - but drawing from examples much closer to home, often showing or naming people we recognise. This book strikes an immediate chord for those of us engaged in this kind of work.

Reading through the eight chapters, you can't help but notice Terry comes back to the same message, time and again: pay attention to methodology and detail. That's a good message. Provincial and Federal land use planners and decision makers are obligated to consult with First Nations in BC. They are not obligated to act on that consultation. Often, we hear our elders describe an area they remember so well, they could just about draw you a map. I've made a lot of maps, and so I can tell you from my own experience, it is easy to make a bad map. It is much more work to make a good map, and it takes a lot of really hard work to make an excellent map. This is a book that will help you capture that elder's map, and get it with such high quality standards, it will be much harder for people to ignore. Using this book, you will also find yourself connecting better with people in your own community, especially the elders, you will find yourself fascinated as your own rich history comes alive, and you will find yourself taking much well-earned pride in knowing you have done a good job and done it right!

The book is a joint publication of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and Ecotrust Canada. You can find it on this site under the Publications section. It is about $15.00 to buy a full colour book, or you can download the file yourself for free in PDF format. It is well worth the time. Oh. Who is Chief Kerry and what does his moose have to do with anything? You'll just have to read the book and find out.


Certifying sustainability

By Russell Collier


The Gitxsan Model: ecosystem based plan

By Russell Collier

The Gitxsan Model is an ecosystem based plan, which maps where and how any logging or activity may take place on Gitxsan territory. Unlike conventional timber planning which allocates cut blocks primarily according to short-term political and economic criteria, the Gitxsan Model studies first the ecological and cultural requirements for long-term sustainability. This is done through the overall examination of a series of inventory maps for various ecological, biological and cultural indicators.

The Gitxsan have spent years in the field, collecting biological, ecological and cultural inventories, using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to map this information. They have inventoried and mapped particular species and resources that are representative of the whole ecosystem. These included grizzly bear, moose and salmon. In addition, they have inventoried and mapped for such conditions as soil and terrain stability, age and condition of forests (such as old-growth), the health and quality of salmon-bearing waterways, as well as non-timber resources like pine mushrooms and berries.

Inventories and have been conducted also for culturally significant values and areas. For centuries, the Gitxsan have hunted and trapped Pine Marten, Wolverines, Mountain Goat, Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, and Marmots, as well as fished and collected a wide range of plants for food and medicinal purposes. Gitxsan territory is criss-crossed with trails to hunting, gathering, fishing and trapping areas as well as seasonal and permanent camps, village sites and culturally modified trees. Evidence of the Gitxsan occupation and use of their traditional lands is extensive and beginning to be well-documented on maps. Over 400 days of oral testimony on the Gitxsan occupation and use of their territories was provided by Gitxsan people as part of the court battle that led to the Delgamuukw Decision, and is being used by them for their mapping projects.

The inventories transect both horizontal and vertical landscapes -from the soil layer to the top of the forest canopy. Moreover, a goal of the work is to transect time. The Gitxsan plan to use both terrestrial ecosystem mapping (TEM) and predictive ecosystem mapping (PEM) to move different kinds of planning scenarios forwards and backwards in time. The objective is to move far beyond five-year development plans and 60-80 year timber rotation cycles that dominate current Ministry of Forests planning, to a model that more closely resembles how an ecosystem functions. This type of technology is being explored but not used by the B.C. government, which continues to use outdated forest cover maps (which account for no other criteria beyond timber) to make decisions about where and how much to cut.

The Gitxsan Model is a comprehensive examination of the ecosystem, its structure, its function and its components. Based, then, on the overlay of these maps, the plan determines important and sensitive sites, as well as areas suitable for ecologically responsible forest use. To date, a tremendous amount of information has been collected on the structure, composition and function of ecosystems for Eagle Clan territory in the Skeena West area, and the Wolf and Frog Clan territories. These planning areas comprise approximately 1/6 of the Gitxsan territory.

The maps series following show inventory examples specifically for the Eagle Clan territory.

The grizzly bear map shows the range and habitatfor resident grizzly bear. Information was collected through aerialsurveys, forest cover maps, intensive surveys of grizzly bear trails,and strip mapping (a process of walking to transect and recordingdetailed observations of habitat used along the transect.)





The salmon map was compiled through a detailed ground a survey of salmon spawning and rearing areas.




The berries map is based on both detailed ground observation and interpretation of forest cover maps.






The timber map shows areas were eco- forestry could be practiced on stable terrain without compromising other values.







Thus far the Gitxsan have produced over 50 maps using Geographic Information Systems (GIS to portray the location and extent of indicators species and resources within these two planning areas. The information base from these planning units now includes the remarkable amount of information from soil layers to the top of the forest cavity, combining both Traditional Ecological Knowledge and modern resource uses.