Dr. Fraser Taylor, Director of the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre (GCRC) is pleased to report that four workshops and five days of training on cybercartography and the innovative Nunaliit Atlas Framework developed at centre were successfully delivered in two locations in Mexico, part of a larger ongoing international SSHRC Partnership Development Grant, which also involves Brazil, Denmark and the Kitikmeot Heritage Society of the Inuit community of Cambridge Bay.
A special component of the Mexican workshops was the inclusion of two Indigenous communities. In November 2017, following a highly competitive competition with over 300 applications, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) between Canada, Mexico and the United States announced support for nine projects, one being a NAPECA (North American Partnership for Environmental Community Participation) grant, the only one involving cooperation between Canada and Mexico, which was awarded to the GCRC at Carleton. The CEC NAPECA funding supported the participation of 25 community members from two Indigenous communities in the project.
The project was developed in view of the interest in the GCRC’s open source digital atlas technology, emanating from a wide range of players, inclusive of academics, researchers, technologists, an environmental organization and Indigenous community members. Several of these individuals had had previous engagement with the GCRC and the Director, Dr. D. R. Fraser Taylor, and were engaged in exploring further the dynamic potential of cybercartography.
The GCRC team provided training to approximately 100 registrants: researchers, technicians, students and local Indigenous community members. They engaged with the following partners: CIESAS (Centre for Research and Higher Studies in Social Anthropology) and CentroGeo CDMX, universities that offer master’s and doctoral programs and technological support; INFOTEC (which provides backup technological infrastructure, computer support and assistance to all CONACYT Research Centre research units in Mexico); INEE (Institute for Education Evaluation); and Terra Peninsular, a non-profit conservation organization affiliated with the University of Baja California (it supports the sustainable development of Yumana communities in Baja California in the environmentally responsible use of local forests, including the preservation of animal, bird and plant resources); Indigenous communities of Pa Ipai, Kumiai and Cucapas in the Ensenada and Alto Golfo areas were involved in the project. Dr. Margarita Paras was the primary academic researcher involved in coordinating the project in Mexico and Amilcar Morales Gamas from CentoGeo and played a key role in the installation of the Nunaliit platform.
Carleton’s GCRC team comprising the technology manager, Amos Hayes, a research professor, Dr. Kumiko Murasugi, and a research student, Jacqueline Chapman, traveled to Mexico, February 11-19, 2018, and delivered three one-day workshops in Mexico City and one two-day workshop in Ensenada to install the Nunaliit Atlas Framework and provide training on its use. The first two workshops were offered at CIESAS and CentroGeo in Mexico City and focused on the presentation of an overview of cybercartography and the Nunaliit Atlas Framework and the hands-on creation of a demonstration atlas. This was followed by a third technical workshop, at INFOTEC, also in Mexico City, for training in the operationalization of the Nunaliit Atlas Framework. The fourth workshop was held in Ensenada for Terra Peninsular and was delivered to two Indigenous groups from three villages, and two language-based atlases were created with the Nunaliit technology.
Expanding the Cybercartography Community
This transfer of technology and the training has served to establish a core network of well over eighty researchers, students, technical professionals and Indigenous community members versed in the application of cybercartography and use of Nunaliit. The Nunaliit Atlas Framework has been fully installed in at CIESAS and CentroGeo, and they access technical assistance and on-going support from INFOTEC. It is now fully available to researchers and to communities on the websites of both organizations. In fact, the workshop in Ensenada was able to use Nunaliit from those sites. The training/informational materials have been translated into Spanish. Since Nunaliit is open source, partners will be able to write code to develop new functionalities to respond to Mexican-specific circumstances and translate further Nunaliit documentation into Spanish. Two community-based atlases were produced, to serve the community, and these undergo on-going development and are not available as public products. Two other atlases were created for their research by the students who were involved with GCRC (Jorge Alberto Andrade Sanchez and Martin Cuitzeo Dominguez Nunez — the former’s research being focused on environmental issues and Indigenous knowledge, with the latter’s work on the cosmological knowledge of the people, the Atlas of the Pa Ipai Sky and Stars).
A Resounding Success
The general consensus was that the best thing that happened during the overall highly successful project was the enthusiastic engagement of the Indigenous Communities in the Ensenada Workshop. Participants included elders, adults, teenagers, many women and children from two communities. Not the typical grouping of workshop participants in a high-level technology workshop, it was most impressive to note the enthusiastic engagement with the innovative cybercartographic digital atlas platform on the computers in the training room. Even children engaged in the spirit of the activity, drawing their own maps for input into the community storytelling and archival atlases. The feedback from participants in all workshops was universally positive and all major partners subsequently provided feedback confirming their views of the positive impact and their plans to further develop application of Nunaliit. Partners in Mexico are already showcasing the project in their communications. An article in Spanish is now available at the AntropoSIG website.
“This workshop was the first step in applying Cybercartography and Nunaliit in an international context,” notes Dr. Taylor. “Work with the Cambridge Bay Inuit Community (Kitikmeot Heritage Society) and Denmark is underway. Further work with communities in Brazil is planned.”