Ecotrust Canada cartographer and GIS trainer Eliana Macdonald, collaborating with a number of sources and First Nations practitioners, has been working to put together a collection of use and occupancy mapping icons.

A sample of the icons available in the collection

“The project began when I was working on creating maps for Living Proof, and needed appropriate icons to represent what points on various maps were,” reveals Eliana. “This got me started on a journey of icon discovery.” (Living Proof is the definitive word on legally-defensible use and occupancy map surveys written by Terry Tobias.)

What she discovered was that, while some Indigenous groups have amazing icon sets for use in their territory’s use and occupancy maps, it was difficult to access appropriate icons for the variety of uses that occur on the land. “It is good practice to have icons to represent features for use and occupancy mapping that have been vetted by the community,” says Eliana. More than this, “When making maps, it’s ideal to have icons that represent the features that are actually on the ground. This makes the map easier to read than if the points were represented by circles or squares – there you would be relying on the legend to help you interpret the information. If we use pictures of birds, you know what that point is without having to use the legend.”

So she began to gather an icon collection. “I designed some from scratch; Barry Hochstein, who worked with  the Arctic Institute, helped by sending me a large icon set he had already developed; and I recreated the icons in the Miawpukek First Nation map set.”

All icons in the collection are freely available under Creative Commons licensing for download and use by mappers, through the Aboriginal Mapping Network.