Traditional Land Use Studies (TLU)

The culture of many indigenous communities—their institutions, social fabric, economies, and identities—remains firmly rooted in unique relationships with the land and animals. These relationships are shaped by harvesting—even for those communities who suspect that they have been changed by industrial development and work for wages.

Your community might be engaged in land claim negotiations, consultation, a historical dispute over unlawful dispossession of reserve land, an environmental impact assessment of a proposed project, or a land use planning exercise. In every case, describing your community’s ongoing relationship with the land will be critical to negotiating a future that everyone can live with.

The methods for conducting traditional land use studies emerged 40 years ago in Canada as a main instrument for describing an indigenous community’s land use patterns and practices, especially hunting, fishing, trapping, and plant harvesting. Typically, TLU research is conducted by an interviewer working with Elders or other active land users to create “map biographies”—their individual and collective stories of land use remembered and associated to specific places on a map. The maps and associated stories and analysis create a basis for engagement between indigenous governments, Crown agencies, and proponents.

Traditional Knowledge Studies (TK / TEK)

Traditional Knowledge refers to comprehensive ways of understanding the world, society, and self. TK develops from generations of being in relationships with, living with, and depending on the spiritual and physical worlds. Long histories of observing, learning about, and depending upon the world—coupled with the unique socio-economic, cultural and spiritual connections to the land, water, air, and animals—has created complex systems of understanding ecology, which differ and sometimes struggle with those that are rooted in the practices of western science. For these reasons, no environmental assessment or community initiative is complete without an attempt to integrate TK.

Your community may seek to document TK for educational programs, land use planning, or other local initiatives. TrailMark will work with you to ensure that TK is appropriately, respectfully, and successfully recorded in ways desired by TK experts, community members, and leadership. Ownership of the TK will remain with the knowledge holders or community organizations.

Harvest Studies & Mobile Apps

TrailMark works with communities to design surveys and custom digital crowd-sourcing solutions to engage a community’s harvesters in detailing their land use and harvesting over a given period of time. The resulting information creates a statistically valid picture of a community’s subsistence patterns which, when combined with the results of a TLU/TEK study, creates a powerful information tool for consultation, wildlife co-management, or impact assessment.

Like the “traditional” activities themselves, we see no reason why TLU and TEK research methods should be fossilized in a bygone era. We are both constantly evolving—and responding to a rapidly changing legal and regulatory landscape.

Our answer is TrailMark™, a handheld GPS-enabled system that allows the documentation of land use and knowledge by local experts. Land-users can record video, photos, and audio while on the land; mark trails and common routes with GPS; monitor environmental change, and more. The resulting information goes beyond what can be gathered in a typical TLU/TK study.

Impact Assessments & Technical Reviews

Environmental assessments are formalized process for governments to assess, predict, and mitigate the potential impacts of a development project. Through EA processes, Crown agencies attempt to discharge their duty to consult, while proponents engage with a view to acquiring the necessary permissions and social license to proceed.

In addition to undertaking TLU/TEK and harvest studies, TrailMark staff provides expert and technical support to indigenous communities engaged in environmental assessment reviews of projects proposed for their traditional territories. We review EA applications, make recommendations, and help communities articulate ways to avoid or mitigate damage to their territories.

Community Engagement, Communications Planning & Facilitation

TrailMark knows how vital effective communication is at each stage of a research program, whether it be in the planning or in the dissemination of a study’s results. Effective communication is critical in gaining the trust of the communities we work with, providing a lasting legacy for a research project, and seeing the best return on investment. That’s why TrailMark employs a talented team of multimedia experts with years of experience working across a myriad of media and distribution platforms.

Our communications planning strictly focuses on improving the effectiveness and legacy of research programs. We don't do public relations or spin doctoring. We strategize our communications efforts to improve the quality of our research and consulting services.

We make world-class, broadcast quality film, audio, and new media productions; and provide capacity-building media workshops. Our multimedia productions and workshops are an invaluable addition to most research programs dealing with the human dimensions of natural resource extraction and management. Captivate your audience with a compelling presentation and encourage community members to learn about your research or history through a more accessible medium than technical reports. Multimedia tools are well situated to celebrate the oral tradition.

Aboriginal Consultation

It's a complicated regulatory landscape for indigenous communities and industry alike. We help navigate this complex landscape, providing our expertise to indigenous communities who want better consultation and to companies that need assistance providing it.

Canada's obligation to consult with its First Peoples is deeply entrenched in the Canadian constitution and law. This duty arises out of the recognition and affirmation of aboriginal and treaty rights under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Since 1982, the responsibility to fulfill this duty has largely been passed down to the provinces and territories. They themselves have often handed off components of this required consultation to industry and multi-stakeholder organizations. It varies all over the country and, simply put, is complicated.

Companies often don't know what their obligations are, and if they do understand them they may not know how to approach communities in an appropriate manner. We work with aspirational and forward-thinking companies looking to respectfully engage with their indigenous neighbours - not only to fulfil their duty to consult, but to build meaningful relationships as well.

Not all companies want to build these relationships if they think they provide consultation at a lower cost. We also assist indigenous communities deal with this chronic challenge, helping them hold competing resource users in their territory to account. Whether your community has a long and storied relationship with a company or a new resource extractor is coming to your territories, we can help you understand if you are getting treated fairly and help you achieve deeper, more substantive consultation while still looking out for and strengthening economic opportunities.

Training & Mentoring

We work together with community members and local land experts to design and carry out research. As part of this work we have the privilege of learning from and collaborating with the true experts of land use and harvesting. We acknowledge this and respect this. Our role is in helping communities navigate the complex systems in which they are entangled. Indigenous communities everywhere have the information to manage and protect what matters to them. We provide the technological tools and training it easier to do so. Capacity building is at the centre of all the work we carry out and we measure the success any project based on how little we are involved as an initiative moves forward.

In all aspects of our work, from TLU to multimedia production, we provide training so that community members acquire skills and opportunities, and retain creative control and ownership. Our platforms are based on common-sense programs that do not require ongoing and costly training. Instead, our hope is that communities can take control of their own land use and harvesting data to protect what matters to them.

Software and Web Development

We design and build state-of-the-art, custom web application and awe-inspiring websites. We believe that software for decision making should be intuitive, versatile and fully scalable. This is what you deserve and what we stand for. We create tools that can greatly optimize your work flow and data management. And we are committed to helping you from start to finish and beyond.

Please contact us and let us know how how we can make something functional and impactful for your organization.