A list of Papers and Journal Articles related to Aboriginal Mapping. Please contact us if you know of, or would like to submit, a paper.

PLEASE NOTE: The Aboriginal Mapping Network is not promoting any of the following authors or their work.The intent of this page is to provide an overview of some of the available written materials.

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GIS Implementation at the Squamish Nation

Today much of the [Squamish Nation’s] land and resource base has been alienated, exploited and depleted and the Squamish people and their culture face numerous challenges to survive. The Squamish Nation has had to look for new tools to manage the increasing needs of its members and the decreasing land and resource base.


Traditional Aboriginal Knowledge and Science Versus Occidental Science

Prepared by Stephen J. Augustine
 for the Biodiversity Convention Office of Environment Canada, October 1997


The intent of this paper is to stimulate enlightened discussion about the definition, mechanisms and purpose of traditional knowledge (TK) and occidental science. It aims to provide both a clearer understanding of TK from an Aboriginal perspective and a more objective view of modern science. At best, it will create a renewed approach to the environment—and possibly combine the best of both sources of knowledge—by helping to forge a new sensitivity to Native American world views.

In comparing TK and occidental science, it is important to take the following basic premises into consideration:

1)   In the same way that occidental science does not define itself in relation to TK, TK need not authenticate itself according to the criteria of occidental science. TK exists in its own right, and its intrinsic validity stems directly from survival techniques used by generations of Native Americans. These techniques have been used in harmony with the land and other living entities, and have avoided creating serious ecological damage.

2)   There is considerable confusion in mainstream society over the link between spirituality and TK, which are often viewed as the same thing. Although spirituality is a part of daily life for Aboriginal peoples, it does not, in itself, constitute TK. Aboriginal beliefs arise from Creation stories, dreams and visions, while Aboriginal knowledge is based on observation, direct experience, testing, teaching and recording in the collective memory through oral tradition, storytelling, ceremonies, and songs. This knowledge is exercised within the context of the social values and philosophies of the tribe—that the Earth and every animal, plant and rock upon it is sacred and should be treated with respect. The fact that Native science is not fragmented into specialized compartments does not mean that it is not based on rational thinking, but that it is based on the belief that all things are connected and must be considered within the context of that interrelationship. In order to maintain harmony and balance, this holistic approach gives the same importance to rational thinking as it does to spiritual beliefs and social values.

3)   Althoughthe term "science" is most often taken to mean mainstream society'sscientific community, it is important to recognize that traditionalknowledge also comprises Indigenous science. For the purposes of thispaper, mainstream science will be referred to as occidental science, and Native American science as Indigenous or Native science. Environmental knowledge is an element of TK, and follows these same principles.

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Strategies for a Living Earth: Examples from Canadian Aboriginal Communities

Prepared by Natasha Blanchet-Cohen
for the Biodiversity Convention Office, Environment Canada (1996).

Aboriginal peoples today are looking to restore and regain control over their environment. In the process, they are breaking new ground by undertaking interesting and innovative initiatives aimed at protecting biodiversity in a holistic manner.

Traditional teachings and practices play an important role in decision making, and serve as a foundation for efforts to rebuild native communities. Their ancient relationship with the land has given indigenous peoples a profound knowledge of the living earth. In the indigenous world view, all parts of the universe are interconnected. Every living creature, whether bird, animal, tree or plant, lives according to the instructions it was given by its creator. The conservation of biodiversity is an integral part of indigenous teachings.

Although native peoples have made important intellectual and technical contributions to society in such areas as food, economy, science, medicine and politics, these have gone largely unrecognized. It is only recently that international and national bodies have begun to accept that these people possess unique and invaluable knowledge about the environment and resource

Many people see economic development and biodiversity as mutually exclusive. The strategies aboriginal communities are currently pursuing to combine the two suggest that this need not be the case. Their efforts to realize sustainable development and self-sufficiency can serve as an inspiration to the rest of the world, which is urgently looking for ways to restore the harmony of the living earth.

As illustrated in the following case studies, native peoples stress the importance of putting biodiversity into a broader context— one that requires a holistic approach involving work both inside and outside the community. As such, native biodiversity programs have many components—including initiatives to heal the community, create jobs, promote the health of the ecosystem, build awareness and form new alliances— all of which are necessary to maintaining biodiversity. The fact that this formidable task is undertaken with such zeal is proof of the commitment these communities have made to regaining control over their environment.

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Control and Access to Indigenous knowledge and Biological Resources

Submitted by Yianna Lambrou, Ph.D
to the Biodiversity Convention Office
Environment Canada
October 31, 1997

As indigenous peoples increasingly manage theiraffairs in ways they see culturally and spiritually appropriate, theyhave expressed concern over the trespasses committed by non-indigenouspeoples seeking to use, manage and control the land and its resources.Motivated by an exclusively human-centered point of view non-indigenouspolicies, research, laws, and economic mechanisms, have in many casesexploited resources and disregarded relationships that are destroyingthe capacity of indigenous peoples to be responsible to the ‘seventhgeneration’ (Clarkson et al, 1993).
This paper will seek to providea critical analysis of the means, both currently existing andenvisioned, by which indigenous peoples can control access to and theuse of their biological resources. Since extensive work has alreadybeen done on a previous paper on Benefit Sharing and IndigenousKnowledge (submitted to the Biodiversity Convention Office, September28, 1997) it will not be necessary to repeat the discussion on thenature of indigenous knowledge but use it as the basis for the analysisin this paper.
“Control of access” refers to the self-determinedprocess of managing biological and other resources in a holistic way tosustain indigenous peoples and their cultures, the environment andtheir natural resources for present and future generations. Control ofaccess to biological resources is a contentious topic for indigenousand non-indigenous peoples since it entails a clash of cultural andspiritual approaches to the use of land based on different values,concepts of power sharing and equity. For example, the concept of“control” stimulates memories of colonization and marginalization forindigenous peoples as well as the rude experiences of extractivistmethods of resource exploitation for profit, to the detriment of theenvironment and cultural integrity. Control of access is a politicalissue of self-government and self-determination, as well as an issue ofhuman rights and ethics.
In the review of the literature, I haveidentified below the most important contested areas for the control ofindigenous knowledge and biological resources.
Relationship between researchers and Indigenous communities.Research and the subsequent need for ethical guidelines for workingwith communities given the impact research has on the survival ofindigenous knowledge and the spiritual and economic well-being ofcommunities.
Relationship between Indigenous communities and Provincial and Federal governments.How non-indigenous research is interpreted (and the legislation, actionand policies) that ensue from this research which includescomanagement, environmental assessments and natural resourcesmanagement practices.
Relations between indigenous communities and corporate/commercial interests.The role of self-determination and self-government which underliesdiscussions of control and benefit sharing and therefore the legalmechanisms available for controlling the use of indigenous knowledge,biological resources and the long term benefits of these resources forindigenous peoples. This topic was analysed extensively in my paper“Benefit Sharing and Indigenous Knowledge” presented to EnvironmentCanada; the paper on Intellectual Properties by Howard Mann alsopresented covered most of the relevant issues. For this reason thelegal and intellectual property controls mechanisms will not bediscussed here. The issues of land claims, self-determination andself-government should be assumed to permeate and underlie alldiscussions on control mechanisms. Until indigenous peoples have theright to manage and be fully responsible for their affairs, any controlmechanisms over biological resources will only be partially successful.
Relations within indigenous communities and the non-indigenous world.Control of access to biological resources has been denied to indigenouspeoples by historical circumstances and political decisions. Lack ofpower and control over their environment is seen as a denial of theirhuman rights as a sovereign people. Therefore political action isneeded globally to rectify past injustices that will heal communitiesby restoring cultural autonomy, respect for their knowledge andself-reliance.

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