Seeing is believing

  • Nov. 25, 2005 4:00 p.m.

Submitted by Simon Davies for Gowgaia Institute–One year after the Supreme Court of Canada ruling on the TFL 39 case (Haida Nation v. British Columbia, Minister of Forests) EAGLE (Environmental-Aboriginal Guardianship through Law and Education) held a two-day conference called Building on the TFL 39 Experience. The conference was held in North Vancouver and was organized to talk about key issues in the case. It was also about the day-to-day realities of making that decision practical and meaningful on the ground in our communities and forests.
The Gowgaia Institute created a map for the case and we were invited to present at the conference on the topic of GIS Mapping as a Tool of Empowerment. John Broadhead made the presentation to the 150 attendees from First Nation, federal and provincial governments, negotiators, law students and people working in First Nations forestry departments.
We titled the presentation Seeing is Believing and began with a discussion of what is a map? Examples of early maps of the islands were shown to illustrate the changing nature of knowledge. When making maps you draw what you know and as more information is gathered so the maps change to reflect it. We showed the negotiation of the border between Canada and the United States with the borders on maps changing over a few short years and more recent provincial maps that delineated fishing, logging and mining areas.
The “logging movie,” an animated map that illustrates the pattern of logging on Haida Gwaii from 1901 through to 2004 was shown. This short video had a big impact because it shows the logging history, year-by-year and the pattern of the cut as it moves across the landscape. The video shows through time that since 1901, 170,000 hectares have been logged on Haida Gwaii and 103,000,000 metres of logs have been shipped from the Islands. This is enough wood to circle the earth with a 6-foot diameter log worth $15-20 billion dollars before manufacturing.
The printed version of the logging movie, which shows the accumulated impact of logging – many islanders have seen the smaller version – was presented as evidence to the Supreme Court of Canada in the TFL 39 case. That presentation made clear to the judges the extent of old growth forest habitat loss, especially cedar.
With permission from the CHN, we presented the Haida Land Use Vision maps to illustrate community participation in map development. The maps are a good way to show how communities working together can protect things that are important to them and develop a vision for future land use. We also included the story of the Unity Rally from a few years ago and the more recent Islands Spirit Rising with the outcome from that action now in negotiation between the CHN and the Province.
As a final example of the development of new and innovative map forms, we showed a work in progress called A Portrait of Freshwater Fish & Riparian Habitats on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands). The project is inspired by the words of the late Charlie Bellis, who said “Salmon are creatures of the forests. They are born in the forests and it is in the forest that they die.” Our intention is to illustrate that when you combine traditional ecological knowledge with GIS data about fish and the forests they inhabit on a map, they literally show the distribution of biological wealth that has sustained Haida culture for millennia and the modern logging industry for the past 80 years. This work in progress is nearing completion and will be published and presented to communities in the coming year (with support from the South Moresby Forest Replacement Account).
These are a few examples from the half-hour presentation and it was good exercise for the Institute in preparing for public presentations. In the new year we will be starting a series of presentations to communities and talking about how maps are made, community participation in mapping and develop new approaches and ideas for mapping these Islands – and of course engage in lively discussion about the content of the maps. We look forward in meeting with you and please watch for notices.

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