The Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre at Carleton University has been working in partnership with Indigenous communities and organizations, and with academic institutions for nearly two decades to create cybercartography atlases and develop the new domain of Cybercartography. The cybercartography atlas is quite different from a traditional atlas. It uses location as an integrating mechanism for all kinds of information in multimedia formats, using the innovative Nunaliit (“community” in Inuktitut) open-source software framework (https://nunaliit.org), developed by the GCRC team in cooperation with many Indigenous, national and international organizations and individuals who use and support it.
On June 21st, National Indigenous Peoples Day, GCRC officially launches the latest Indigenous atlas, the Residential Schools Land Memory Atlas (https://residentialschoolsatlas.org). This is the culmination of five years of research on a project supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Indigenous partners include the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association, the Assiniboia Residential School Legacy Group,
the Legacy of Hope Foundation and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation; the Atlas also has significant contributions by Jeff Thomas (jeff-thomas.ca); academic partners include Algoma University, Concordia University, and the University of Manitoba.
The RSLMA identifies residential schools from across the country and aims to enrich knowledge relating to these schools, their sites, and the perspectives of survivors. Its images and maps incorporate both archival and experience-based knowledge of the schools and their sites.
The maps in this atlas use location as an organizing factor for images, videos, narratives and a variety of content relating to the Residential Schools Legacy. They explore the historical geography of buildings, sites and stories through digital archival and related research. This includes media and related information on 1. Residential school reunions and related gatherings; 2. Exhibitions related to residential schools; 3. Sketch maps of survivor stories created by university students; and 4. News stories on themes related to residential schools.
The Atlas builds on theoretical and methodological developments in Cybercartography and is consistent with Indigenous world views. This relationship-focused approach involves reciprocity, engaging people in the production of maps to tell the stories they wish to tell, and giving these stories back to communities for education and further input. Work under the project to develop this Atlas has involved expanding research, education and community networks, and increasing awareness of the Residential Schools Legacy via critical approaches to cartography. The Atlas is a “living one” in that it can continuously be added to.
Students have contributed to the development of this atlas in many interesting and valuable ways, at the same time learning in innovative and sensitive ways about the many dimensions of the Residential Schools Legacy.
A book “Cybercartography in a Reconciliation Community” edited by S. A. Pyne and D. R. Fraser Taylor was published by Elsevier on October 5, 2019. It includes chapters by Atlas contributors and further describes the Atlas creation process.
GCRC thanks all who have participated in this atlas project. It has been an honour, a privilege and much has been learned.