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An atlas, like any book, does not just appear in a library or a classroom on its own, but begins as an idea, possibly even a crazy idea. It succeeds with hard work, dedication and the co-operation of many.

The idea for the Sahtu Atlas was inspired by a comprehensive mapping and information collection process launched in 1996. The Sahtu Geographic Information Systems (GIS) project in Norman Wells is a partnership of the Sahtu Land Use Planning Board (SLUPB), the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board (SRRB), and Sahtu Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development (RWED). In the summer of 2001, a gathering of the Sahtu GIS partners developed the atlas idea with the aim of sharing the collected knowledge about this region, with its rich cultures, ecology, and natural resources. It was envisioned that the atlas would aid community organisations, land use planners, government agencies, industry representatives, researchers and educators. Alasdair Veitch (Sahtu RWED) and Miki Promislow (Sahtu GIS Project) agreed to take the lead on the project. Celina Stroeder, then Superintendent of Sahtu RWED, was an enthusiastic supporter.

And so the work began. James Auld was recruited in 2002 to make beautiful, informative maps for the atlas. Translating the masses of information collected in the GIS database into graphic form is no easy task, but James persisted. It is thanks to James’s efforts and determination that the original dream has been realized.

But this atlas had to be more than just maps. Statistics, explanations, descriptions and images unique to the Sahtu were needed to give context and meaning to the maps. Miki Promislow, Alasdair Veitch, Jody Snortland, Melonie Dyck, Richard Popko, and Arianna Zimmer helped select photographs, offered research data and gathered numerous scientific tidbits.

In 2003 Robert Kershaw, who had been involved with other publishing projects in the Sahtu, was brought on board to help manage the project, design the book, contribute content and oversee production and printing. As time moved along James and Robert found themselves working to keep a good idea on track as lagging spirits and personnel departures threatened to derail the project.

Of course many other people have had a part in the making of this atlas. First, thank you to the people the Sahtu, for generously sharing their stories of the land. This atlas is richer because of them. The stories are mainly drawn from three published sources in the Sahtu: reports on research by the Sahtu Land Use Planning Board and the Sahtu Heritage Places and Sites Joint Working Group, and stories published in the former Sahtu monthly newspaper Mackenzie Valley Viewer in a series of special supplements entitled Sahtú Godé Dáhk’é/Sahtu Place of Stories during 2000-2002. All stories are reprinted by permission of the publishers.

For their work on the traditional place names maps, thanks to researchers Irene Betsidea, Edith Mackeinzo, Marlene Tutcho, and Chuck Bloomquist, as well as Elders Alfred Taniton, and Peter Baton (Deline); Rose McNeely (Fort Good Hope), and Mabel Martin, Leon Andrew, Gilbert Horassi, David Yallee, Victor Menacho and Vivian Pellisey (Tulita). Thanks to Sam Kivi for her amazing ability to keep the Atlas project funded through it’s darkest days. Thanks also to Alfred Masuzumi for his wonderful artwork, and the many photographers whose images have brought these pages to life.

Finally, the efforts of Deborah Simmons are incalculable. Deborah brought knowledge, writing and editing skills and most importantly a love of the Sahtu, its people and their stories, working behind the scene to fill in the many gaps the rest of us were unable to fill.

What began as an idea, became a puzzle, a puzzle that at times challenged all involved in the project. This atlas is the result of overcoming those challenges.

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