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Step 2: Map Your Community

This step takes approximately 6 hours to complete.


In order to make your community a better place for people, other animals and the environment, you need to first understand who lives there and if everyone’s needs are being met. Community mapping is a vibrant way to tell the story of a community. Mapping involves identifying relationships, needs, and resources, and recording them in the form of a map. 

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Get Started: Opening Circle

Get Started: Opening Circle

Start by exploring what community means to the people in your group by allowing each participant to share their passion and understanding for their community or communities.


Discuss the concept of interconnectivity and interdependence. In every community people and animals interact with the environment and have an impact on one another. How are all living things and the environment connected?


Get Specific:
Select Your Community

Get Specific: Select Your Community

Decide upon a geographic area that will allow you to examine issues of relevance to you and your group. This is the area you’ll map out.


You may choose to create your map as a group or individually. When working on your map, consider spaces that reflect and represent Indigenous communities as well as non-Indigenous communities.  


Get More Specific:
Pick Your Map Format

Get More Specific: Pick Your Map Format

Will your map be...?

• Hand-drawn from observation

• Created over a printed street map

• Imposed over a map from Google Maps™ or Google Earth™

Mapper's choice!


Get Mapping:
Basic Concepts

Get Mapping: Basic Concepts

Information Sources for Your Map

  • Talk with an Elder

  • Speak to young people

  • Examine a variety of existing maps

  • Look through directories of businesses, farms and municipal services

  • Ask your local council(s)

  • Check municipal, parks, and conservation association websites

  • Look for online satellite images

  • Talk to neighbours and community members

Choose the concepts and ideas shown below that are applicable to your chosen community. Mark the applicable concepts and ideas on your community map.


Get Mapping:
Record Your Ideas

Get Mapping: Record Your Ideas

Ask yourselves these questions:

  • Who are the members of the community? (people, animals and the environment)

  • What are the needs of these members in the community?

  • Are the needs of all community members met?

  • What resources in the community can be better utilized to address these needs?

Create the chart below for your project and use it to keep building out your map (chart is filled in with examples). Alternatively you can use our prepared worksheet.

The gaps in your chart will help you understand what information you still need to seek out. Use our worksheet to identify the gaps.

Further explore your community and find more information using a variety of methods:

  • A walk/chat with an Elder

  • Interviews with community service groups

  • Surveys of households

  • Reading First Nation, Metis or Inuit stories

  • Interviews with experts (e.g. conservationists, historians

  • Examining local newspapers


When you are satisfied with all the details collected from the community, revisit your map to make changes and additions to reflect the new information.

Get Reflective: Closing Circle

Get Reflective: Closing Circle

Before we take action, let’s reflect on what you've learned about your community now that you’ve completed your map. Get together with your group and talk through these questions. 


  • What themes emerged? 

  • Did you find different results than you expected in your opening circle?

  • What did you learn about the relationships between people, animals, and the environment in this community

  • Do you think there are members whose needs are not being met? If so, which ones?

  • Do you think some members’ needs are being met at the risk of the needs of others?

  • What are these needs? Are they needs or are they wants?

  • Which issues or concerns in the community did you find particularly interesting?

  • What issue or concern do you feel is most important to address? Why?

More Food for Thought

More Food for Thought

Interviewing Tips

Interviewing community members, historians, Indigenous Elders, reporters, and local experts is an invaluable way to learn about a community.

  1. Do your homework. Have a basic knowledge of the subject before your interview

  2.  Have a list of questions. Be prepared with questions to ask, but also be able to ask unplanned questions based on the respondent’s answers. Use open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are useful for encouraging full, meaningful answers that get at the subject’s knowledge, experiences and feelings. These types of questions often start with words like “How” or “Why” or phrases like “Tell me about...” Closed-ended questions that often encourage short or one-word responses should be avoided. Example of an open-ended question: Could you tell me about the history of this park? Example of a closed-ended question: Are you aware of the history of this park? 

  3. Listen. A common mistake of interviewers is to be planning the next question while the respondent is still answering the previous question. You will miss important information if you are not listening closely


Indigenous Community Engagement Practices

  1. When approaching an Elder or Knowledge Keeper, bring traditional tobacco in a tie or a bundle. This is a traditional practice and is an important part of building relationships. Offering tobacco is understood as a contract or promise between yourself, the person you are meeting with, and the Creator. You can also mail tobacco if you are doing something virtually. The Elder will return the tobacco if they are unable to accept your request.

  2. Sitting with, and listening to, Elders and community members is important if you intend to support Indigenous People in your event, work, or community. It is also a good practice if you want information about a specific community.

  3. When sitting with an Elder, always ask permission before recording a conversation, whether it is a digital recording or written. Cultural history, stories and contracts are often oral and passed down only through oral communication, so permission is key.

  4.  Cultivating trust with the community and its members is important. Being genuine, open minded and present will help you develop these relationships. Consistency and transparency is important as it does not happen overnight.

  5. Always ask the community what they think is most needed. Never assume that you know the community better than its members do.

  6. Traditionally, Indigenous people believe there is equal balance/importance between people, animals and earth. All have a spirit and all are valued equally. Listen to teachings and stories the community shares about their land to learn more about the roles things in their environment play in their lives.

  7. Understand that Indigenous Knowledge is not stuck in the past, but remains current and relevant. Find a place of mutual understanding and respect.

  8. Most importantly, remember that each Indigenous community is different. The best course of action is to ask how to work together. No two communities have exactly the same language, traditions, protocols, or practices. The people you meet are willing and open to sharing, provided you are open to hearing the answers. 


Community Mapping Worksheet with More Exercises

Includes a worksheet to help identify resources, and plan for how you’re going to engage the community.

A Helpful Resource

Learn how you can take a nature walk and help map your community.
Join Youth Advisory Council Member Chloë Chang as she talks all things getting outside, connecting with the environment, being respectful, and about citizen science.
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