RAVEN - Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs

CEDAR – thinking out of the box!


What if I told you there is a way for First Nations to not only keep accurate, detailed records and maps of all their sacred sites, fish camps, pit houses, trap lines, you name it – AND to also see if that development plan that landed in their office will encroach on these spaces.  It even writes the reply letters.

It’s called Cedar.  And this comprehensive box of tools is part of a cool project that RAVEN helped to fund this past summer.  Cedar is the brainchild of GeoMemes founder Charles Burnett.  He developed the Cedar software package to not only allow First Nations to collect the data and track their land, but to also steward their land by being able to respond to development queries.  So for example, a fish farm company comes calling – and with Cedar stewardship staffers can easily assess the proposal. Is it located over an important oolichan bed or safely away from medicinal plant harvesting sites? Who is the proponent? How long is the permit?  Cedar has the answers.  The system then helps respond to the queries, with time appropriate letters, and even gives the Nation’s staff due dates and reminders.

Charles Burnett describes it like this: “Cedar is groupware for project tracking and analysis, used by coastal First Nations to manage and respond to Crown Referrals and other proposed projects.” 

Right now, version 6 of Cedar is used by 6 First Nations along the BC coast, for example Metlakatla in Prince Rupert and Kitasoo/Xai’xais in Klemtu. Cedar is built to afford efficiencies in tracking and response to proposals. This is critically important in communities facing heavy development pressure, which may result in small offices having to log, analyse and respond to dozens if not hundreds of referrals and proposals monthly.

This past summer, UVic undergrad students Jade Lacosse and Greg Sebastian worked on re-vamping the Cedar software.  Jade is a 3rd year Computer Engineering Co-op student at University of Victoria. His family background is Metis.  Greg is a web developer and database expert. He has been the technical lead on several projects at GeoMemes over the past 3 years. Greg studies computer science part-time at the University of Victoria. Greg’s family is Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan.

GeoMemes has been upgrading the system to a new platform (Drupal 7) and Greg and Jade worked on 3 projects this summer which a grant from RAVEN helped to fund.  Jade worked on a module that allows for rapid generation of response letters. With the click of a button, a form letter is generated and then edited by the staffer to, for example, list issues the Nation has with a proposal. The module generates PDF versions of the letter with the Nation’s digital letterhead. When a manager emails the response letter, Cedar logs the communication automatically.

The second  part of the work was a Cedar Mobile Survey Tool.  The tool is a data collection system that uses rugged tablets to enter data which is then auto-uploaded to the nation’s Cedar system when field staff return to base.  They used a whale survey as a test case. The Mobile Survey Tool data is available to the larger Cedar system for assessing development proposals.

Cedar, is locally hosted in the Nation’s office, on a mini-server they call a Cedar Box. This, by the way, is not a wooden box but the name given to a powerful but inexpensive computer that holds all the Nation’s stewardship office data.  It’s a web server, geo-spatial database and portal and because it is used locally it is not dependent on external sources.  Even more important, the data stays within the community.  

As of October 1st, Cedar version 7.1 development is now complete, and GeoMemes is testing the suite with Kitasoo/Xai’xais stewardship staff. Good timing: KItasoo Guardians and the Spirit Bear guides have just returned to their offices after a busy field season!

Okay, so this is very cool.  And there’s more.  Jade and Greg also found time to code a First Peoples Cultural Council “Place Names Audio App”.   It’s an Android App with a map viewer and audio files linked to icons showing indigenous place names. The App is available in the Google Play store. There are currently approximately 80 indigenous place names in the database, and First Peoples’ has hundreds in their archives that they plan to port to the App.  Jade created the App using software called PhoneGap. Greg created the back-end database and website that the App talks to.

To get in touch with the Geomemes team, you can call Mobile: (250) 858-6277
Email: team@geomemes.com

Posted by Admin Thursday Dec 05, 2013 13:19
Categories: RAVEN Educational Programs, RAVEN General | Tags: Aboriginal, CEDAR, Charles Burnett, environment, First Nations, geospatial data collection, indigenous, mining, Native American, rights and title, science, water

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