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Using modern technology to protect ancient heritage

Moving from paper maps to GPS helps the Lil'wat Nation protect its past

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Originally developed for military applications, the science has been shown to have wider possibilities and is used by governments, business and science.

Now 55, Jones, is the cultural technician with the Lil'wat's Land and Resource Department, but at the age of 10 he got into the world of cartography through a hand-drawn map his grandfather made for him. The map showed spiritual and cultural connections in the region, important locations for food gathering and hunting, where people had lived and died in past times.

Jones expanded on it over time, taking a printed map and adding colour stickers to show places of significance to the Lil'wat. As his project progressed, Jones gathering oral testimony from elders of how land was used. The maps gained a nickname: "Johnny Dot Maps".

"I've always been working on maps in my own time and way. With Johnny Dot Maps there was red for rock paintings, green for culturally modified trees, yellow for cabins or other sites," he said.

In his own words, Jones said he "can still walk around the mountains pretty fast yet," but with the Lil'wat traditional area in question covering up to 778,548 hectares, he saw how the technology ramped up information gathering.

Today, he says he and others trained in the use of the equipment gather "all the information" they can find and hand it on to the Lil'wat's GIS technicians, who plot it.

The Lil'wat GIS maps have been used to respond to requests by proponents of Independent Power Projects, forestry and mining. Jones said it would come into play again should the Pemberton Valley Trails Association be successful in its attemptto get permission to build a trail to the alpine area of Mount Currie later this year. First Nations GIS input will be required at that point, to ensure sensitive areas are not encroached on by the trail.

"Anytime we go out we use it to record information. The fish techs are out now doing that and in a few days I'll be out in a logging block by the Lillooet River," Jones said.

Out of the struggle to protect culturally sensitive areas like Ure Creek from the bulldozer and logging truck, the Lil'wat Nation reestablished their right to have a say in how the land is being used, and this has led to more respect being shown them by industry.

"Oh yeah, yeah. It helps quite a bit, having the GPS and working with the logging companies because now they know the areas to avoid," said Jones.

"After we GPS an area, we flag it out and create a buffer zone around a cultural site. And they move their block away from it. Now they lose half a logging block and they don't mind. At Pebble Creek we saved a whole area in a logging block and deleted it from the logging block. They avoid them, we have a lot of say on that now."