Revealing Ways of Knowing in GIS

Paakumshumaau-Wemindji Project Meeting: Revealing ways of knowing in GIS, February 17-18, 2007

This conference brings together leaders in the fields of GIS, geography, indigenous knowledge, and anthropology for two days to discuss a research agenda for representing indigenous ecological and cultural knowledge in a culturally sensitive way.



Feb. 17. 2007








Lunch and Registration



1:30 - 2:00


Rodney Mark, the Council Chief, Cree Nation of Wemindji, and co-host will welcome participants to the workshop, Revealing Ways of Knowing in GIS. Ron Blackned, the GIS technician and Land Management Clerk of Wemindji will provide an overview of its GIS activities. Renee Sieber, the organizer of the workshop, will discuss the reasons behind the workshop.

Rodney Mark, Ron Blackned, Renee Sieber


Identifying geo-spatial information to obtain culturally protected area status and advocate for land claims

Colin Scott will begin by describing the conditions for culturally protected land and then Renee Sieber will guide workshop participants, who include conservationists, philosophers, geographers, academic, private and public sector representatives in a discussion on the nominal biophysical and socio-economic geospatial data that can and should (in an ideal world) comprise a database for a culturally protected space

Colin Scott, Renee Sieber

3:00 -3:35

Understanding intellectual property rights of geographic data

What is the context of law in Canada that protects native peoples' knowledge and Canadian government generated data? Brian Thom brings his extensive knowledge of the political, social and cultural processes that have surrounded Coast Salish peopleís efforts to resolve aboriginal title and rights claims and establish self-government.

Brian Thom, Renee Sieber





3:50 - 4:25

Geo-spatial information and industrial development: the case of the Paix des Braves agreement

Saganash and Neeposh, from the Waswanipi Cree community, furnish a description of the ways in which hunters' ecological knowledge has been recorded in GIS for purposes of Cree hunting territory based forest management under the Paix des Braves agreement (2002).

Allen Saganash, Derek Neeposh

4:25 - 5:00

Cross cultural comparison of native geo-spatial data

Of course we donít assume that a single data set can describe the context of native spaces and needs of native peoples. But are there common factors upon which native data sets will differ? What are appropriate technologies for representing geo-spatial information? Peter Poole brings his considerable experience in the geo-spatial data needs of native people around the world to address this and other issues.

Peter Poole, Melinda Laituri

5:00 - 5:35

Naming place

Something as simple (to GIS practitioners) as mapping placenames becomes crucial in asserting claims to land. A panel discussion composed of David Denton, Ludger M¸ller-Wille, and Claudio Aporta will discuss the importance of collecting and mapping place names.

David Denton, Claudio Aporta


Feb. 18, 2007



9:00-9:35 am

Integrating and Managing qualitative information

Geo-spatial technologies (GIS, Remote sensing, Global Positioning Systems), of necessity reduce place to a quantitative geometry (i.e., points, lines, areas and pixels). How can we integrate information that is difficult to quantify? Claudio Aporta discusses how Inuit hunters relate to and understand their local environment. He will describe the knowledge and techniques related to navigation and wayfinding, transmission of Inuit geographic knowledge, use of the sea ice, and use of place names as orienting devices.

Claudio Aporta, David Denton

9:35-10:10 am

Constructing data models and categories for local spatial knowledge (aka geo-spatial ontologies)

Revising geo-spatial technologies to be more inclusive to indigenous knowledge may require looking at the underlying structure of how the data is modelled. David Mark discusses the conceptual systems that underlie the semantics of geographic expressions using examples from US Navajo and Australian Yindjibarndi tribes. Christopher Wellen adds examples from the Wemindji Cree.

David Mark, Christopher Wellen






Building software tools for native knowledge

Coming from computational and fine arts, Jason Lewis will discuss representation of aboriginal territory in cyberspace, in which the tools themselves influence native knowledge and how tools can be redesigned to better fit native knowledge. Using Mohawk and other native examples, Lewis discusses his CyberPowPow, Within Reservation, and Skins projects. Valter Blazevic will add his private sector experiences in designing geoportals for indigenous knowledge.

Jason Lewis, Valter Blazevic

11:00 - 11:35

Geo-spatial Data Access

Melinda Laituri examines how technology mediates access to geographic information for participation in the policies that affect native peoples' lives and well-being. Access can consist of several components: context, connectivity, capabilities, and content. She draws together these components into a guide for assessing the strength of access. She also addresses issues of who should have access to data and how to protect confidentiality of that data.

Melinda Laituri, Renee Sieber & Lucas Eades

11:35 - 12:15

Visualizing and mapping aboriginal geo-spatial information

Cybercartography is a new paradigm that sees the map as central to knowledge interaction in the emerging information society. It is used to address the communication of geospatial information in an easily understandable fashion using highly interactive maps, text, videos, narratives and other online elements. To create cybercartographic atlases, a specific software called Nunaliit ( has been developed at Carleton University using open source and open standards. Sebastien Caquard will present this software and will discuss its potential for designing community-driven indigenous atlases. Jesslyn Stoncius adds examples from the Wemindji Cree.

Sebastien Caquard, Jesslyn Stoncius


Lunch and Wrap up