Where would we be without maps? Would most of us even be able to navigate from one place to another? Naturally, one of the three pillars of Canadian Geographic’s content is cartography (storytelling and photography are the other two). The magazine has a long history of featuring maps and telling stories about them. As we look back to our past during this 85th anniversary year of the publication, a cartographic history of Canada emerges, particularly in the likes of articles such as “Mapping Canada: Exploration,” from a special 70th anniversary issue of the magazine in 2000.
The piece offered a brief summary of early Canadian mapping. And while renowned explorers such as Martin Frobisher, Samuel de Champlain, James Cook, Alexander Mackenzie and Charles Camsell — founder of this magazine’s publisher The Royal Canadian Geographical Society — get the bulk of the credit, the story also includes mention of the important cartographic contributions made by Canada’s aboriginal peoples. “Their knowledge was often incorporated into maps of early European explorers,” notes the piece, which is accompanied by a map drawn in 1822 at Winter Island by the Inuk Iliguik. Interestingly, Canada’s First Peoples seem to be gaining increasing recognition for their important role in mapping the nation. Perhaps nowhere is that more evident than with the discovery of Sir John Franklin’s ship Erebus last summer, where traditional Inuit knowledge of the local geography was critical to the find. Indeed, though the location isn’t marked, there’s a map of King William Island and the surrounding area drawn by an Inuk named In-nook-poo-zhee-jook in 1869 that almost assuredly includes the spot where Erebus was found. Where might modern-day searchers have been without it?