A learning resource described as a comprehensive atlas on Indigenous lands, languages and culture in Canada was launched in Toronto on Wednesday after two years of input from the communities it covers.
The Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada, which includes a four-volume set of books, an online interactive atlas and other components, was touted as an important educational tool for future generations.
“Not only will (Indigenous) children see themselves and their people in such a respectful and meaningful way, but non-Indigenous children will be educated with resources that come from authentic Indigenous voices for the first time,” said Charlene Bearhead, the project’s education adviser.
The project, funded by the federal government, was developed by Indigenous groups working with the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Those involved in the effort said it was believed to be the first of its kind.
Bearhead, who is also the education co-ordinator for the National Inquiry of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, said the way in which the atlas was developed was important.
“The First Nations made the decisions about what would be in their volume, the Metis made the decisions about their volume and so did the Inuits,” she said.
The chief operating officer of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society said the project told the story of the country’s people and their lands in an important way.
“As a powerful education tool, it is clear that the Indigenous People Atlas in Canada will become a foundational step on the path towards reconciliation,” said Gilles Gagnier. “The learning from the atlas will help ensure that the Indigenous voices in every part of this country and throughout the world are heard and understood.”
The atlas includes information on Indigenous communities, languages, education, treaties and lands. It also addresses topics such as residential schools, colonization, racism and cultural appropriation.
“It is our hope that the voices of the First Peoples gathered in this atlas will cause you to reflect ... and maybe even act,” said Julian Brave NoiseCat, a contributing editor to the atlas who is a member of the Canim Lake Band in British Columbia.
“It is a beautiful and proud thing to be Indigenous.”
The atlas will soon be introduced to classrooms across Canada, and teachers will be given materials that will help them learn how to best use the resource.
“We are right here, in someone’s homeland and we don’t learn about them,” said Bearhead. “Now that we have this resource, there are no excuses.”
Bearhead added that the use of the atlas should go beyond the classroom.
“Every family, every house in this country needs to have that atlas as a beginning point to educate,” she said.