Indigenous Place Names and Cultural Property

I’ve mentioned Coming Home to Indigenous Place Names in Canada, a wall map of Canadian place names in indigenous languages, before. I’ve since received a review copy and have been able to examine it in some detail. One thing that struck me is the following statement, which appears on the map.

The place names in this map are the intellectual and cultural property of the First Nation, Métis, and Inuit communities on whose territories they are located. The names may not be mapped, copied, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the Nations, communities, and organizations who are their caretakers.

The PDF download page has similar language that is part of the map’s terms of use, which you have to agree to before downloading the map.

This isn’t an injunction not to use the names indicated on the map: that would be weird. Nor is it an assertion of copyright over geographical data: if you know anything about trap streets, you know that facts cannot be copyrighted. It’s an injunction not to replicate these names: not to compile them, not to add them to a database of toponyms, not to have them pass out of the control of the communities who shared those names with the mapmaker. This is, in other words, about protecting indigenous intellectual property from exploitation, and preventing this map from being a tool to strip-mine the cultural heritage of the communities who shared their information.

The 42×33-inch paper map is sold out as in rolled format but still available folded (and, as I said, as a PDF); if you need a rolled map to put on your wall, a second printing is tentatively scheduled for next month.

Previously: Indigenous Place Names in Canada.

Author: Jonathan Crowe

I blog about maps at The Map Room, review books for AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, and edit a fanzine called Ecdysis.