A wise man once said “If you don’t develop it, you will lose it”. This may seem contradictory to environmental conservation, but if we develop new methods to conserve our environment, then we can’t go wrong. Take for example Indigenous culture, if new ways aren’t developed to protect it and pass it on to future generations, chances are, it will be lost.

The secure collection and management of environmental and cultural information is a powerful way to provide stewardship through traditional knowledge. There is a common desire to record cultural information, maintain Elder knowledge and document the relationship between people and their connections to the land. As individuals age and landscapes change, it is crucial that the wisdom of the Elders, their traditional stories and their voices be maintained for future generations. The way that cultural and environmental information is collected, managed, and used must be based on appropriate protocols and security, and must be an empowering solution which builds capacity within communities to be self-reliant in their ability to manage information as they see fit.
There are a number of information management systems available to Indigenous communities in Alberta:

Community KnowledgeKeeper

CKK is unique in that it provides for instant desktop analysis of potential impacts of industrial development on traditional land use, species habitat, and any areas of importance to a community. This fully customizable referrals/consultation tracking and management system is configured to suit and support each community’s specific needs and consultation process. The CKK also provides a comprehensive digital community archive for documents, photographs, audio, and video files.

LOUIS Toolkit

The LOUIS Toolkit is a user friendly and robust data management solution for indigenous communities. The LOUIS Toolkit puts control of community information into community hands by being highly flexible and so communities can configure it to meet their unique needs. The LOUIS Toolkit has solutions for the web, desktop and mobile devices. The LOUIS Toolkit offers effective tools to collect field data, conduct in-person interviews, review and manage development proposals, manage housing and infrastructure information and much more.

Trailmark: Gather. Map. Mobilize.

Indigenous communities across Canada rely on Trailmark software to help them monitor and protect their lands and cultural heritage. Trailmark is a unique traditional knowledge-management platform that brings together web-based GIS, mobile data collection, a web survey tool, and digital heritage management in an integrated, easy-to-use environment. Communities that use Trailmark are successfully uniting their land use planning, community based monitoring, referrals, impact assessment, digital heritage, and traditional land use and knowledge projects—all in one place.

Community Information Management System-pilot

In 2015 AIberta Innovates-Technology Futures (AITF) facilitated cooperation between a First Nations partner and Environmental Systems Solutions to deploy a customizable community-based monitoring system.

Technology developed in Australia by an Indigenous company Environmental Systems Solutions (ESS), was designed specifically for the secure collection, storage and management of cultural, ecological, archaeological and development data.

The three main components of the technology are:

  1. field monitoring mobile devices with software-based forms and monitoring sensors
  2. a relational database which maintains the data and can be queried to report on data
  3. a web-based interface for viewing data and managing the overall system

The ESS system is customizable for each client, and uses a range of technologies to allow input and storage of a wide range of information, including audio, pictures, video, GPS locations, GIS data, and documents. In addition, users of the system can control who can access or edit the information stored in the database.

This successful pilot provides an example of how partner organizations can support community groups across Alberta to deploy community-based monitoring systems to address their needs. AITF is working toward the overall goal of assisting any and all interested First Nations or other Indigenous community groups in Alberta with the deployment of community-based monitoring systems.