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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Aboriginal Mapping Network : a case study in the democratization of mapping Johnson, Benjamin David


Land claims, increased control over natural resources and movement towards self-government demand that First Nations produce maps that bring local knowledge into planning and governance processes. For their mapping needs, First Nations are turning largely to geographic information systems (GIS), complex and expensive computer-based spatial database systems. They are, however, developing their technical skills independently of each other, rarely experiencing the knowledge-sharing benefits characteristic of an integrated community. To address this problem, and to help build mapping capacities in general, the Aboriginal Mapping Network was created by Ecotrust Canada, an environmental non-governmental organization, and several First Nations. Using the medium of the World Wide Web, the Network seeks to create linkages between First Nations mappers and to provide a space for the sharing of knowledge. This thesis uses a formative program evaluation framework to assess the strengths, weaknesses and potential of the nascent Network. The evaluation draws on interviews with First Nations mappers and network developers. Conclusions are drawn on how effective the Network is in developing communications linkages and facilitating knowledge sharing, and how this might continue in the future. Concurrently, the Network is used as a case study in the democratization of mapping. Capacity building in GIS technology, it is argued, will allow First Nations to produce unconventional maps that articulate local worldviews and perceptions of place. As embodiments of local knowledge, these maps will in turn be used in planning, negotiations and governance to empower First Nations on their own terms.

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