Welcome to Native-Land.ca, a very cool new visualization tool for learning about whose land, language group and treaties are where you are living.
While not a academic or professional survey of first nations, Native-Land.ca was founded in early 2015 by 28 year old Victor Temprano from British Columbia, to help people get more more engaged and knowledgeable about indigenous territories, history, languages and issues taking place where they live. His goal is to spark a dialogue about who has the right to name, shape and draw our maps:
“I’m Victor. I am a settler, born in traditional Katzie territory and raised in the Okanagan. I am concerned about many of the issues raised by using maps and colonial ways of thinking when it comes to maps. For instance, who has the right to define where a particular territory ends, and another begins? Who should I speak to about such matters, anyway?”
There are more than 630 different First Nations in Canada, and 532 federally recognized in the United States, with hundreds more that are not recognized by the federal government. He started the mapping projects to help learn more about them for the sake of public awareness at a time when oil pipelines and other natural resource extraction projects were growing throughout Canada and British Columbia. Once he had started, he began to ask himself whose territories all these projects were happening on, and began digging up the geographic data and mapping.
“I feel that Western maps of Indigenous nations are very often inherently colonial, in that they delegate power according to imposed borders that don’t really exist in many nations throughout history. They were rarely created in good faith, and are often used in wrong ways. I am open to criticism about this project and I welcome suggestions and changes.”
That being said, maps might also be useful for Indigenous nations and others in all kinds of initiatives, such as this one by Amazonians and many others found around the web.
This map is in honor of all the Indigenous Nations [of colonial states]. It seeks to encourage people — Native and non-Native — to remember that these were once a vast land of autonomous Native peoples, who called the land by many different names according to their languages and geography. The hope is that it instills pride in the descendants of these People, brings an awareness of Indigenous history and remembers the Nations that fought and continue to fight valiantly to preserve their way of life.
It is a small step in educating ourselves, but the beauty is that once we learn something, it cannot be unlearned. And if we are gonna be serious about understanding the indigenous experience on Turtle Island, a great way to start would be to learn more about “our home and native land”. Check out the below interview I did with Victor, who is of various European heritages, and is not himself indigenous, about why he believes it is all of our responsibilities to ‘plant a seed in settler consciousness and to encourage settlers to engage with Indigenous history and nations’. Thanks for the interview Victor, hope you all check out the website and share it with your networks!
For those interested in learning more, there is a wonderful article and interview by Michael Champagne at North End MC from 2015 with Victor Temprano and dives into some of the discussions around geography and colonialism. It can be read here.
Native-Land.ca’s API and data has been used and mentioned in a few places, such as: