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Book binds the Sahtu

Chris Hunsley
Northern News Services

Norman Wells (July 18/05) - Rich with historical photos, maps and traditional tales, The Sahtu Atlas offers readers a unique glimpse of the area's culture, history and geography.

This beautifully bound, full-colour atlas offers a glimpse into the geography and history of the Sahtu. Five hundred of the books will be distributed free of charge to residents of Norman Wells. - Aaron Whitfield/NNSL photo

Thought to be the territory's first comprehensive regional atlas, this new reference book should be "applauded," said Prof. Dr. Vernon H. Singhroy of the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing in Ottawa.

"Let's do it for the rest of the communities," he said while on a visit to Inuvik.

In the works since 2001, the 68-page large-format book almost never made it to the printing press.

"We had a real problem with funding," said Sam Kivi, manager of Shared Services, who worked on the financial end of the project.

Money committed early on was cut, leaving Kivi and other fundraisers to "beg" all they could while convincing patrons of the project's worthiness.

"Now we have a great atlas and it's different than normal GIS (geographic information system) atlases," she said.

It gives prominent display to traditional knowledge, stories told by elders and cultural information.

The Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, Sahtu Renewable Resource Board, Sahtu Land Use Planning Board, Sahtu GIS Project and RWED all supported the atlas.

Manufactured in Manitoba, the first 1,000 copies cost $17,000 just to print and another $1,000 for shipping to Norman Wells.

Kivi couldn't estimate the total cost of the project.

The first 500 copies have been distributed to libraries, hamlet offices and other public areas throughout the Sahtu. The second shipment of 500 books, waiting to be barged to Norman Wells, will go out to households and individuals free-of-charge.

For the people

Along with recorded oral history and digital information dating back 40 years, numerous community visits and interviews with residents were used as reference material, said James Auld, project manager.

"It really is information provided by the people and communities of the Sahtu," said Auld. "The number of people involved in this is countless."