Indigenous Mapping Across Borders: Geo-Spatial Tools and their Application in Cross-Cultural Dialogue

November 7, 2016, Vancouver, B.C. – The Musqueam Indian Band, in partnership with Firelight Research Inc., Squamish Nation, National Aboriginal Lands Managers Association, Inlailawatash Limited Partnership, Ecotrust Canada, Google Earth Outreach, and Esri Canada will welcome more than 150 community practitioners from across North America to Vancouver, BC on November 7-10, for the 3rd annual Indigenous Mapping Workshop. The workshop will bring together participants from Indigenous communities, community-based mapping practitioners, and university-based researchers to create a North American network of Indigenous practitioners, sharing knowledge and experiences of spatial technologies to advance Indigenous rights and interests.

“First Nations people have always had an acute sense of where we are in the world. We navigated throughout our territories guided by our stories, landmarks, waters and the heavens. Present day mapping, Geospatial tools and technologies will help guide us in the future as adaptability has always been our strongest asset,” said Graeme Sandy of National Aboriginal Lands Managers Association (NALMA).

The workshop aims to empower Indigenous capacities in a culturally appropriate and sensitive way, emphasizing the intrinsic interconnectedness of Indigenous peoples, culture, and land via a participatory, holistic, and iterative process. It supports Indigenous mapping practitioners with tools and techniques to improve information management and presentation for key regulatory and legal processes, allowing communities to tell their own stories, in their own languages, from their own perspectives.

The free four-day event, hosted at the Musqueam Community Centre and Cultural Pavilion, will explore various Google and Esri Canada digital mapping tools. Participants can use the tools to collect, host, visualize, share, and publish community data.

“Digital mapping by Indigenous communities globally has applications that include the capture and sustenance of traditional knowledge, and importantly the articulation and management of rights in traditional lands and associated interests of use and governance. The tools of geographic information systems (GIS), through this process, have become an invaluable component of Indigenous governance and stewardship of the land, as well as promoting day-to-day aspects of community engagement,” said Brent Hall of Esri Canada.

The technical training will be co-led by members of the Google Earth Outreach team, Esri Canada, and Indigenous mapping experts. Speakers will address topics including land-use planning, legal perspectives on strategic mapping, gender-based approaches to spatial data collection, and more.

“The art and science of map making have evolved at such a fast pace due to technological advances over the past 20 years. Our primary goal is to bring Indigenous practitioners together to learn the latest, cutting edge mapping and geographic information system (GIS) technologies that can be applied in the day-to-day lives of Indigenous peoples’ realities,” said Steve DeRoy of Firelight.

“Indigenous communities in Canada have been at the forefront of applying Google Earth and Maps as innovative tools in preserving traditional culture and managing lands and livelihoods. We hope to put our mapping technologies in the hands of even more Indigenous communities through this workshop,” said Raleigh Seamster of Google Earth Outreach.

About the Indigenous Mapping Workshop: The IMW is an annual workshop that has been ongoing since 2014, and has provided training for more than 220 mapping practitioners from Indigenous communities so far. The workshop concentrates on the integration, communication and interpretation of traditional knowledge into geospatial technologies, highlighting the need for technologies to be culturally appropriate, sensitive to the processes that contextualize data collection, and community controlled.

For more information, see the event website:, or contact Firelight’s Operations Manager:

John Kelly, Operations Manager
Firelight Research Inc.
cell: (604) 355-6494