Special Achievement in GIS Award

2017 SAG Award Winners

Quinault Indian Nation

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Project Goal

The indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest historically travelled in cedar, ocean going canoes, to meet in large, gift-giving, ceremonial potlaches, hosted by a single tribe. So potent was the potlatch as a celebration of culture that it was banned for a time by both Canadian and US authorities. The now annual Canoe Journey, which began in 1989 with the Paddle to Seattle, is a revival of this tradition. Canoe families participate from as far away as Alaska and for some the journey can last more than a month. Young people are recruited to become pullers to build pride, self-reliance and respect for themselves and their cultures. Stops are made along the way at tribal communities before reaching the final host’s destination. Canoes travel in groups, hugging the coast, navigating constantly changing conditions. Giving the canoe families and support teams an easy-to-use map showing where their loved ones’ canoes are was the principal impetus by this collaborative application.
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Business Problem Solved

In 2013, the Quinault Indian Nation hosted the annual canoe journey. Through conversations with several members of Esri’s Olympia office, who used DeLorme inReach GPS trackers during assignment in East Africa, the idea was born to try the same technology to track canoes and provide smartphone access of their locations to their supporting canoe families. Another problem addressed was canoe member safety. The DeLorme inReach devices have a built-in SOS feature that alert local rescue in case of an emergency.
The greater tribal public’s participation in the event, through their ability to follow the canoes along on the journey and see photos posted along the way, has been another benefit of this project.
GIS departments from the Quinault Indian Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, the Nisqually Tribe, and the Squaxin Island Tribe have collaborated over the past several years to develop and improve the web mapping applications that are now used during the journey each year.

Technology Implemented

In 2013, Esri Professional Services helped Quinault set up ArcGIS Server and redirected the inReach feeds from units carried on several canoes to Quinault’s server using a custom Python script. A web map was created on their ArcGIS Online account that displayed canoe locations. Innovation came that year when Grand Ronde requested that their inReach unit’s feed be redirected to their ArcGIS Server so they could link photos to their canoe’s track. This idea evolved into the crowd-sourced story map created by Grand Ronde and Nisqually in 2016.
In 2016, Nisqually replaced the python script that parsed the Delorme feeds with the GeoEvent processor extension for AGS, allowing each participating tribe to manage their own Delorme inReach account and redirect their feeds without custom scripts. Nisqually also used WebAppBuilder to refine the look of the web app.
The yearly canoe journey AGOL map URL is directed to the domain which is managed by the Squaxin Island Tribe.

Development Team Biography

Amy Calahan, former GIS Analyst, Nisqually Tribe
Jennifer Cutler, GIS Program Manager, Nisqually Tribe
Tony Hartrich, GIS Program Manager, Quinault Indian Nation Division of Natural Resources
Brian McTeague, Quantitative Services Manager, Squaxin Island Tribe Natural Resources Department
Volker Mell, GIS Coordinator, Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde
Joshua Whitener, GIS Manager, Squaxin Island Tribe Information Services Department
From Esri Professional Services:
Marty Balikov, Mike Ruth, Mahesh Ramiah

The annual canoe journey has always been a collaborative effort from the GIS perspective. Each year, the hosting tribe’s GIS department would request the GIS data used by the prior year’s host as a starting point. The authors would like to acknowledge GIS departments from past host tribes for sharing their knowledge and GIS data.

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