The Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada

The Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada is finally on the verge of publication. First announced in June 2017, and unveiled in its final form in June 2018 (Canadian Geographic, CBC News, Ottawa Citizen, press release), the atlas is a massive project several years in the making and involving input from indigenous communities across Canada. The result of a collaboration between the Royal Canadian Geographic Society, the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Métis Nation, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and Indspire, the atlas project includes a four-volume physical atlas, an online version, and additional teaching resources, including new giant floor maps from Canadian Geographic.1

The physical atlas’s four volumes include one for First Nations, one for the Inuit, one for the Métis, and one focusing on Truth and Reconciliation. It has a list price of C$99.99 (online sellers will have it for less) and comes out in one week, on September 25th: Amazon. A French-language version comes out next month, on October 23rd: Amazon.

The online version of the atlas has the text but very little in the way of maps: I can only assume that this is not the case for the book versions. The companion app, for iOS and Android, does little more than link to the web version and includes a location finder for land acknowledgment.

The news buzz about this atlas in this country is considerable: see recent coverage from the Canadian Press, CBC News and the Globe and Mail. This looks to be a cultural watershed event the likes of which I have not seen since the publication of The Canadian Encyclopedia in 1985. I expect a lot of copies to be sold.

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.

Native Land

Native Land is an interactive map that shows traditional territories, indigenous languages and treaties in the Americas, Greenland, Hawaii, the Mariana Islands, Australia and New Zealand, though the treaty coverage is limited to Canada and the United States. In part because the map is ahistorical, there is some overlap in terms of languages and territories. The brainchild of Victor Temprano, who started the project in 2015, Native Land is also available as a mobile app: iOS, Android. [Atlas Obscura]

Too Né’s Map for Lewis and Clark

A map drawn by an Indigenous guide for Lewis and Clark, recently discovered in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, is the subject of an entire issue of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation’s journal, We Proceeded On. (The issue is not available online.) The map was drawn some time in 1805 by Too Né, a member of the Arikara tribe who in 1804 travelled with the Lewis and Clark expedition in what is now North Dakota, and shows the extent of the territory known to the Arikara at that time.

Christopher Steinke, now a history professor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, encountered the map during his graduate studies; he wrote it up for the October 2014 issue of the William and Mary Quarterly, which also published an interactive version of the map on its website. (Here’s a link to Steinke’s article.)

Indigenous historians and William and Clark scholars don’t appear to talk to one another very much, which is why it’s taken until now for the latter to get so excited about the map Steinke discovered—which in my view is much more interesting and significant as an example of Indigenous mapmaking than it is as a piece of Lewis and Clark lore.

Here’s the press release from the Foundation, and here’s We Proceeded On editor Clay Jenkinson on what the map means for “Lewis and Clark obsessives.” [Tony Campbell/WMS]

Indigenous Place Names in Canada

The University of Maine’s Canadian-American Center has published a map of indigenous place names in Canada:

Commissioned by Dr. Stephen J. Hornsby, Director of the Canadian-American Center, Coming Home to Indigenous Place Names in Canada was researched and designed by Dr. Margaret Wickens Pearce. The map depicts Indigenous place names across Canada, shared by permission of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities and people. The names express territorial rights and describe the shapes, sounds, and stories of sovereign lands. The names mark the locations of the gathering places, the communities, the places of danger and beauty, and the places where treaties were signed. The names are ancient and recent, both in and outside of time, and they express and assert the Indigenous presence across the Canadian landscape in Indigenous languages.

The map is available for purchase; a PDF is available for download for personal or educational use. [MAPS-L]

Previously: Mi’kmaw Place Names Digital Atlas.

Indigenous Contributions to Early Maps of Alaska

A lecture by independent historian John Cloud about indigenous contributions to early American mapmaking and surveys of the newly acquired territory of Alaska is now online. The lecture, titled “The Treaty of Cession, as Seen through the Lenses of Art, Cartography, and Photography,” is 80 minutes long and full of interesting stuff about the early history of Alaska. Cloud gave the talk on 15 November at the Sealaska Heritage Institute in Juneau, as part of the institute’s Native American Heritage Month. Local public radio station KTOO had a short article on the talk last month. [Tony Campbell]

The Library of Congress Acquires the Codex Quetzalecatzin

Codex Quetzalecatzin, 1593. Manuscript map, 90 × 73 cm. Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress has acquired the Codex Quetzalecatzin, an extremely rare 1593 Mesoamerican indigenous manuscript that depicts, using Nahuatl hieroglyphics and pre-contact illustrative conventions as well as Latin characters, the lands and genealogy of the de Leon family. John Hessler’s blog post describes the codex and helps us understand its significance.

Like many Nahuatl codices and manuscript maps of the period it depicts a local community at an important point in their history. On the one hand, the map is a traditional Aztec cartographic history with its composition and design showing Nahuatl hieroglyphics, and typical illustrations. On the other hand, it also shows churches, some Spanish place names, and other images suggesting a community adapting to Spanish rule.  Maps and manuscripts of this kind would typically chart the community’s territory using hieroglyphic toponyms, with the community’s own place-name lying at or near the center. The present codex shows the de Leon family presiding over a large region of territory that extends from slightly north of  Mexico City, to just south of Puebla. Codices such as these are critical primary source documents, and for scholars looking into history and  ethnography during the earliest periods of contact between Europe and the peoples of the Americas,  they give important clues into how these very different cultures became integrated and adapted to each others presence.

The Codex has been in private hands for more than a century, but now that the Library of Congress has it, they’ve digitized it and made it available online. [Tony Campbell/Carla Hayden]

‘Counter-Mapping’ the Amazon

Samuel Fritz, “The Marañon or Amazon River with the Mission of the Society of Jesus,” 1707. Map, 31×39 cm. National Library of Brazil. Wikimedia Commons.

The Conversation has a piece on how indigenous peoples in the Amazon are using “counter-mapping” to reclaim not only their ancestral lands, but as a way to counter the colonial process of mapmaking itself.

Maps have always been part of the imposition of power over colonised peoples. While map-making might be thought of as “objective”, it is fundamentally political, a necessary part of controlling a territory. Maps inscribe borders, which are then used to include some and exclude others.

During a late 19th-century rubber boom, Amazonia became increasingly well mapped out as the young nations of Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia vied for territorial control. The rights and interests of Amazonian peoples were never included in this process and they would be continually denied rights, recognition and citizenship from these nations until the 1980s and 1990s. Even following legal recognition, their territorial rights—critical for their continued existence—are still often ignored in practice.

These marginalised people are now working together to reclaim the process of mapping itself. In the central Brazilian Amazon there has been a recent flurry of “counter-mapping”, used by forest peoples to contest the very state maps that initially failed to recognise their ancestral territorial rights.

[via]

Canada’s Indigenous Communities on Google Maps

CBC News reports that more than 3,000 indigenous communities in Canada—traditional First Nations reserves as well as treaty settlement lands and urban reserves—have finally been added to Google Maps. For some reason I thought they already were—U.S. Indian reservations have been on Google Maps for some time, after all (their visibility, or lack thereof, was commented on in 2011: here, here and here).

Mi’kmaw Place Names Digital Atlas

A guide to Mi’kmaw place names in Nova Scotia, the Mi’kmaw Place Names Digital Atlas was unveiled last year. It’s “an interactive map showing more than 700 place names throughout Nova Scotia, and includes pronunciation, etymology, and other features, such as video interviews with Mi’kmaw Elders.” Flash required (really?). [CBC News]