Earlier this week, Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebrated the history and culture of Indigenous communities in the United States. Now that the holiday’s over, here’s one way to keep learning more: Find out which Indigenous lands you live on using an interactive map.
Since 2015, Native-Land.ca has helped people discover more about the history behind the spaces they inhabit. Victor Temprano is the creator of the tool, though it is now overseen by Native Land Digital, an Indigenous-led nonprofit.
At first, the map functioned as a “resource pointed at settlers and non-Indigenous people to, in a not-too-confrontational way, start thinking about Indigenous history,” Temprano told Mashable’s Heather Dockray in 2018.
Today, the group is focused on improving both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people’s relationship with the lands around them. Per the group’s website, its goal is to “create and foster conversations about the history of colonialism, Indigenous ways of knowing and settler-Indigenous relations.”
On the map, users can type their city, state or ZIP code into a search bar to see which Indigenous communities resided there. The tool includes an option to apply “settler labels” to see how the map corresponds with today’s state borders. As users click on the names of Indigenous nations, they’ll find links to related readings. The map can be accessed via Native Land Digital’s website or downloaded as a mobile app.
“[The map] is supporting Indigenous peoples as they take back the narrative, and have both the ability and the platform to be able to share their stories,” Christine McRae, executive director of Native Land Digital, tells Today’s Danielle Campoamor. “In doing so, we’re able to know a truer history of the place that we live in.”
“Territory acknowledgement is a way that people insert an awareness of Indigenous presence and land rights in everyday life,” writes the nonprofit. “This is often done at the beginning of ceremonies, lectures or any public event. It can be a subtle way to recognize the history of colonialism and a need for change in settler colonial societies.”
Still, territory acknowledgements are complex; sometimes they “can easily be a token gesture rather than a meaningful practice,” writes Native Land Digital. The nonprofit’s website provides a number of questions to reflect on, and suggests reaching out to nearby Indigenous communities directly.
Diana Cournoyer, executive director at the National Indian Education Association and a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, tells Today that conversations about Indigenous history can be uncomfortable—but at the same time, they should aim to center Indigenous joy.
“Native people exist in pride today,” Cournoyer tells Today. “We are thriving, we are innovating, we are creative, we are problem solvers, we are economic drivers in a lot of states, we make decisions, and we are highly educated.”
The nonprofit hopes that the map will provide young people with an interactive way to learn about Indigenous communities and start conversations surrounding Indigenous rights, McRae tells Today.
“We have a responsibility to learn the history so that we don’t continue to perpetuate harm,” she says. “We’re having more and more of those conversations, and I’m very hopeful listening to a lot of youth from around the world who are incredible advocates and who make sure we take care of the land that we’re on, and who make sure that this land remains for future generations.”