The newest map of the Auyuittuq National Park will have Inuktitut place names, after years of consolidating local knowledge and consulting historical records.
The Inuktitut place names map started its work in 2014, holding workshops with the Inuit Knowledge Working group for the park over two years, though it used data that is at least 130 years old.
The Inuit Heritage Trust shared data about the park with its earliest efforts to record place names dating back to 2010. It also used historical maps and information recorded by Parks Canada staff over the years.
“We took all that information and put it on one big map,” said Karen Routledge, a historian with the Indigenous Affairs and Cultural Heritage Directorate for Parks Canada.
They took the important step of verifying the information with local knowledge holders, who discussed the origins of known names and settled on a preferred name based on historical knowledge and earliest recorded maps.
A workshop in Qikitaruaq brought people from Pangnirtung to discuss all the names that Parks Canada and its partners had surfaced.
“It was really important to meet together,” said Routledge, adding that all the meetings were done with the work of translators Madeleine Qumuatuq and Martha Newkingnak.
The collective knowledge of elders, youth, hunters and trappers and park staff will ensure the history and culture embedded in the park are also clear to visitors.
“A lot of people think of the Arctic as empty and I’ve been so impressed with the work that the Inuit Heritage Trust is doing. People have been blown away when they see the place names across the map,” she said.
When visitors travel to the park, “it will really show them, in a visual way, the long and deep and ongoing histories that Inuit have about the land. They’ll think about it in a different way when they’re hiking and skiing in it,” she said.
Many of the mountains and landmarks all have Inuktitut names but were given Norse names like Mount Thor.
The mountain, a towering 5,495 feet in elevation has the Earth’s greatest vertical drop of 4,101 feet. Its Inuktitut name is Qaiqsualuk, translating to enormous bedrock.
“That peak and quite a few other places in the park had multiple names. People from different communities had heard different names for different peaks,” she said.
Qaiqsualuk’s alternative name is Avvinnguaq, meaning “looks like a sealskin scraping tool,” said Routledge.
Joavie Alivaktuk of Pangnirtung had heard this name from his father who travelled often in the area. Knowledge holders congregated to sort out the names they’d heard, the stories behind them and who they’d heard them from. They collectively negotiated on which names should be on the map.
They voted on Qaiqsualuk because it had been recorded as early as the 80s.
“That was a really impressive process. It worked really well and was fascinating to hear how to the names had been passed down,” she said.
Ten of the names on the map are based of recordings from an American-German anthropologist, Franz Boas and a separate naming project from the 1980s which covered the Cumberland Sound area.
Those place names were recorded in both maps a century apart.
The effort itself was an intense collaboration that “would not have been possible” without the contributions of the Inuit Knowledge Working Groups for Auyuittuq National Park in Pangnirtung and Qikiqtarjuaq, said Routledge.