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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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As a further case in point, on April 10 Jones carried out a GPS search of an area following a referral from Halray Logging in Brackendale, to explore a block site before the commencement of logging operations. In his search, Jones and colleagues, including Dave Hall from Arrowstone Archaeological Research, located a lithic scatter site in the area, with evidence of early-flaked stone tool-making activity of cultural and archaeological interest.

Tracy Howlett, who helped start the program in 2005 and worked on it for six years, said initial funding came from Ecotrust Canada to bring the technology in-house.

"Before this, you'd get somebody in to do a project and then all of this information is there and nobody knew how to use it," she said. "This came around the same time the province and the Lil'wat began talking about the Lil'wat Nation Land Use Plan. They knew they needed a lot of maps done."

Howlett said her job was to create the GIS program from the ground up, including buying software and hardware and compiling data and training.

"The first big project was support the full Lil'wat Nation Land Use Plan," she said. "Over the following five years we maintained that project, worked with Johnny and we sent a whole bunch of guys out for GPS training. That was Johnny's first time to go out into the field with his little GPS unit and now he's never without it!"

Howlett says others are also benefiting, with the Haida Nation and the Tsleil-Waututh also following the Lil'wat program to varying degrees.

"And it helped us reach out to our neighbouring municipalities and regions. The Village of Pemberton and the SLRD didn't have a full-time GIS at the time, and so not only was this information we shared with them, we also ended up creating a little outreach and training program!" she said.

For Jones, GIS even increased his already solid understanding of the history in the territories.

"It changed a lot since back in the 70s; a lot of the stuff was handwritten on paper. Now we can get three or four metres away from a cultural site and you know exactly where they are. I feel like it's totally awesome," he said, laughing."We'll continue using it and other people will be trained into it, too."