Google set out to take users of its free online mapping service on an Arctic adventure with help from an Inuit community in the Canadian tundra.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper joined the effort as the Internet titan’s Street View team arrived in the hamlet of Cambridge Bay in the Northwest Passage for one of its most remote projects to date.
“The goal of this project is to share with a global online audience the beauty of Canada’s Arctic and the culture of the Inuit people who live there,” said a Google team member.
Google spent 11 months planning the mapping endeavor with Nunavut political leaders and elders in Cambridge Bay in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.
“People are always asking how we live; how we survive,” Cambridge Bay elder Anna Nahogaloak said in a Kitikmeot Heritage Society interview.
“They’re always asking about everything,” she continued. “This will help them understand and learn more about Nunavut.”
Nunavut is Canada’s northernmost territory and was officially separated from the Northwest Territory in 1999.
Nahogaloak recalled being 10 years old when her family traveled by dog sled from Brownside River in 1958 to Cambridge Bay, where they built a cabin and became part of the small community.
She recounted how many of the dogs starved along the way because game was scarce and that her father was a trapper and fisherman.
The Street View project began with a “Map Up” at which residents ranging from teens to elders worked on laptop computers to enhance the online map with local knowledge from roads and rivers to the community freezer and a stone church.
“I think that it is important for the Inuit people to contribute to the maps,” Nahogaloak said. “The land is everybody’s land. We all share it.”
Google map software supports the local Inuktitut language.