Over the course of centuries, Arctic indigenous peoples have navigated on sea, ice and trundra land using cultural knowledge of trails and place names that was passed down through the generations. These trails were used mainly for hunting, fishing, trading and maintaining social connections between Inuit communities.
This June 2014, researchers (of Carleton’s Cartographic Research Centre, the Marine Affairs Program at Halifax’s Dalhousie University and the Geography department at Cambridge University) have released after several years of work a first ever “Interactive Atlas of Inuit Trails” that shows thousands of kilometers of ancient eskimos routes and hundreds of traditional Inuit place names through the sea, coastlines and vast expanses of the Canadian North (Nunavut, Northwest Passage, Ellesmere Island…).
“… The Atlas is one of the outcomes of the project “The Northwest Passage and the construction of Inuit pan-Arctic identities” (funded by SSHRC—the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council), and co-directed by Claudio Aporta (Marine Affairs Program, Dalhousie University), Michael Bravo (Geography, University of Cambridge), and Fraser Taylor (Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre, Carleton University). This project looks at Inuit occupancy of the Northwest Passage, through a study and documentation of Inuit traditional trails and place names, which have interconnected Inuit groups across the Arctic since time immemorial.
The two main research questions for this project are:
- how extensive and significant is the historical Inuit presence along the Northwest Passage? and
- how interconnected Inuit groups were before Europeans arrived?
This Atlas focuses on historical written evidence of Inuit presence in most of the Canadian Arctic. It contains a selection of material obtained from hundreds of published and unpublished documents produced by explorers, ethnographers and other visitors who were in contact with Inuit during the early contact period or shortly before Inuit moved to permanent settlements. A very significant proportion of those trails and place names are still used today. The Atlas is a database, and the sources can be found through searches, or clicking on the features on the map. Each document has been given a geographic reference (which in some cases, it occupies the whole Canadian Arctic). Whenever possible Inuit place names and trails encountered in the documents were digitized separately.
It should be noted that accuracy of the geographic data varies according to the cartographic techniques of the original map, and of the scale employed. This atlas does not attempt to provide precise local geographic locations, but a regional and cross-regional sense of how intensively the waters and adjacent lands of the Northwest Passage were used by Inuit… View here the Interactice Inuit Trail Map >>