Seeing the unseen: an Indigenous heritage’s mapping project
Keywords: Indigenous geographies, memories mapping, hydroelectricity, Quebec industrial development, memory- frame, aerial pictures, flooded landscapes, decolonization, remembering process, places memory, deep mapping, symbolic accretion, cultural claim, land claim
Abstract. Based on an ongoing qualitative and collaborative research project led in partnership with the Innu community of Pessamit, this paper brings into focus some specific issues regarding memories recollection and representation in a context of deterritorialization. The Innu First Nation has a specific historical and political context related to resources exploitation. Since their traditional lands have been the site of several large-scale hydroelectric projects, they have been intimately – and to a large extent, forcibly – involved in the economic transformation of Quebec since the 1950s. It should be noted, however, that their ancestral occupation has never been formerly recognized by the federal and provincial governments, a political and legal context partly responsible for the material and cultural losses they had to deal with. Through interviews we have conducted with the elders that travelled the rivers before the floods, we tried to rebuild, in some way, the cultural heritage embedded in those submerged lands. We used different cartographic tools and materials in a way to support and trigger the personal narratives the elders were remembering and sharing. This cultural mapping process revealed three main issues I would like to focus on. First, as the cartographic representations were getting closer to the landscapes the elders perceived and experimented as kids and young adults, the localization of significant places and the creation of personal narratives became easier and fluid. Secondly, we found, through that inquiry, how important an enhanced visibility of innu’s flooded heritage can be on a political level. Finally, we came to the conclusion that mapping should be considered more as a conversation than a visual representation only.