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Representation in remote sensing classifications of Aboriginal landscape descriptions

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Thematic maps derived from remote sensing must be relevant to their users. The accuracy of classification rubrics closely relates to the understanding a person has of a feature's physical characteristics, use and cultural meaning. Geographical concepts incorporated in traditional ecological knowledge are learned through experience of the land and communicated orally. This article examines the cultural dimension of remote sensing-derived information. A series of Anishinaabe terms are put in the context of the remote sensing-based classification systems developed for the US National Land Cover Database (NLCD) 2001 and the Atlas of Canada. The NLCD 2001 better represents Anishinaabe descriptions of geographical features. Its simplicity makes it more inclusive, particularly with the classification of exposed soils, forest types and wetlands. This classification scheme uses nominal information and has no climate- or region-specific categories. The results suggest that a foundation exists for Aboriginal people to benefit from remote sensing technologies from which to extract information compatible with their knowledge of the landscape.
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Keywords: Aboriginal; Autochtone; Canada; classification; couverture terrestre; land cover; remote sensing; télédétection

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography, Memorial University, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada A1B 3X9 ( ), Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2010-12-01

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