Modeling Métis mobility? Evaluating least cost paths and indigenous landscapes in the Canadian west

Publication date: Available online 27 May 2017Source:Journal of Archaeological Science
Author(s): Kisha Supernant
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analyses in archaeology have been criticized by archaeologists for being reductive, environmentally deterministic, and reproducing a disembodied experience of the landscape. However, research over the past 20 years has demonstrated the power of GIS data and analyses to explore complex social questions about past human experiences. Indigenous knowledges of landscapes have not often explicitly informed GIS analyses in archaeology, even though archaeologists and indigenous communities around the world are forging collaborative relationships. This paper proposes an integrated approach GIS-based least cost analysis, where Indigenous traditional knowledge, historical documentation, and archaeology can be brought together for a more nuanced and locally-grounded model of past landscapes. A case study from the movement of the Métis people of Canada is used to test typical models of cost path movement used in archaeology against known historic trails information, followed by a discussion of possible future applications of movement models and variables related to local Indigenous knowledge of current and past landscapes.