Natoaganeg (Eel Ground First Nation) Uses Geographic Imagining System (GIS) and Global Positioning System to Protect Traditional Territory, New Brunswick
Located in Northern New Brunswick along the South West Miramichi River, Natoaganeg or Eel Ground First Nationis home to over 800 people. The traditional lands of the Natoaganeg cover approximately 7,000 acres of Acadian Forest. While the Mi’kmaqs of Natoaganeg have been stewards of their traditional lands since contact, the entire Acadian Forest (which covers most of the maritimes and stretches into Maine) has seen its share of resource exploitation in the form of, among other things, excessive logging. As a result the Acadian Forest is endangered. According to a GeoConnections media release, “The traditional territory of Eel Ground is surrounded by a very active forestry industry. Over 50 pulp and paper, veneer and saw mills can be found in and around Eel Ground”.
In order to protect and restore the health of their traditional lands, the people of Natoaganeg have partnered with GeoConnections under the Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI). Recently Natoaganeg acquired a Global Positioning System and they have been using this system to refine the accuracy of extensive mapping projects most of which have used Geographic Imagining System computer software. As the head of Eel Ground’s Straight Arrow Specialized Lumber Products, Stephen Ginnish, notes, “The GPS lets us test our paper notes and the digitized information to make sure what we’re producing in our maps is 99.9% accurate”. On top of this the GIS and GPS can help project how different forestry practices will play out in the long term.
Natoaganeg is able to combine the use of GIS and GPS technologies with traditional knowledge of plant and animal life in their territory. As a result they are developing standard setting forestry practices that recognize the forests as more than simply an exploitable commodity. At the same time, they are using their experience and knowledge with this technology to help other First Nations protect their lands.