OTTAWA — About 25 kilometres southeast of Arctic Bay, on the northern shore of Adams Sound, there is a place called Qajuutinnguaq. It means “Hill shaped like a chisel.”
You wouldn’t find it on most official maps because official maps of Nunavut contain huge swaths of unnamed land. And most of the place names that do exist were given by colonial explorers to honour foreign kings and dignitaries.
But a geographer from Carleton University in Ottawa is trying to decolonize those maps by helping Inuit officially name the places around their community with traditional, Inuktitut names using free software that he invented.
And the work of Dr. Fraser Taylor just got a big boost. With a $516,323 grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and an expected matching grant from the Ontario government, Taylor hopes to improve computer hardware and software so that more northern communities can map their world, their way.
“Our multi-media cybercartographic techniques fit so well with the oral culture,” Taylor said, during a recent interview at his Carleton office. “Print is totally inadequate to capture the storytelling traditions.”
Taylor, an award-winning and world-renowned geographer at Carleton Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre, coined the term “cybercartography” in 1997 to describe a new form of multimedia, interactive atlas.
Basically he created a powerful online tool called Nunaliit (http://nunaliit.org/) that allows anyone to map just about anything in a very unique way—using not just maps and text but audio, video, photographs, graphs and any other form of information that helps viewers understand the place.
For instance, on the Arctic Bay Atlas, you can click on Qajuutinnguaq and find not only photographs of the place and an Inuktitut audio clip, but a memory of the place uploaded by a user.