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Mapping the Journey [OMRI]


Mapping the Journey: Inuit perspectives on the role and value of participatory mapping (2015 - 2019)

Participatory mapping is commonly used in projects across the Arctic as a tool for Inuit to document, represent, and share their cultural and environmental knowledge by drawing places, routes, or areas of importance on available maps.  Indeed, map biographies collected to support Inuit land claims assertions are the foundation of comprehensive land claims agreements across Inuit Nunangat (homelands) in Canada. However, maps are also rooted in colonial histories where they have been used to claim territories, exert political authority, and ignore or erase Indigenous sovereignty.  Although there have been widespread counter-mapping efforts by Indigenous Peoples around the world, there has been little critical assessment of the value, power, and challenges associated with the use of participatory mapping in an Inuit cultural, geographic, and political context. The broad research question driving this project is: What is the role and value of participatory mapping according to Inuit perspectives in Nunavut?  To address this question, we have established a partnership with Nunavut Sivuniksavut (NS).

NS is a post-secondary training program for Inuit youth based in Ottawa, ON.  All NS students in the second year of the program take the “Introduction to Research Methods” course in the fall term, where they learn about research design, ethics, and social science methods.  Each year, one of the course requirements is for NS students to conduct a small, independent research project when they return home over the mid-term holidays (December/January).  By involving family members, Elders or other community members in their project, students gain experience in conducting primary research in a supportive and familiar context.  Through collaborative planning with the course Instructor, this participatory mapping evaluation project is being integrated into the NS course learning units and holiday research activities over the four-year project lifespan (2015 - 2019).  There are three main reasons for this partnership:

  1. 1)by involving NS students there is more potential for effective community engagement and diverse contributions from across Nunavut to support the participatory mapping evaluation;

  2. 2)by integrating the project with various elements of the research course we can contribute to student learning, mentorship, and research opportunities; and,

  3. 3)by being involved in this project NS students have the potential to make important contributions to Inuit research ethics and methodologies through their input into research ethics protocols, interview design, and ongoing discussions about Inuit-centred approaches to research.  

The collaborative research and teaching elements throughout this project will thus result in reciprocal research and learning benefits for all involved.

Additional key informant interviews and secondary uses of participatory mapping data previously collected will also be incorporated in the scope of this project.  This provides complementary and contextual elements in support of the evaluation, as well as creating opportunities to further explore and/or apply what we learn from Inuit perspectives on mapping shared throughout this project.  Taken together, results of this research are intended to contribute insights in support of more ethically sound, culturally sensitive, and contextually representative participatory mapping practices.

This project is led by Gita Ljubicic, with the help of collaborators:

Samantha Mitchell - Nunavut Sivuniksavut

2nd year Nunavut Sivuniksavut students

Joel Heath - Carleton University and Arctic Eider Society

Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation - Early Researcher Award