Today is Indigenous People’s Day, so I thought I’d look around for some indigenous mapping projects, which certainly count as DH. I found a couple resources that I wanted to share here.
Native Land seems to be a well-known resource. The first thing a user of the website sees is a disclaimer:
This map does not represent or intend to represent official or legal boundaries of any Indigenous nations. To learn about definitive boundaries, contact the nations in question.
Also, this map is not perfect — it is a work in progress with tons of contributions from the community. Please send us fixes if you find errors.
If you would like to read more about the ideas behind Native Land or where we are going, check out the blog. You can also see the roadmap.
…So this may not be an accurate source of information and it’s definitely a work in progress. According to its “About” page, the website is run by Victor G. Temprano, who is not himself Native. However, I do think that being upfront about the potential flaws in the map is a good move. Additionally, the map links to a page about using its information critically. In particular, this page deals with some of the difficulties of using the colonial format of a map to illustrate the overlapping indigenous territories. Interestingly, this map also doesn’t address the issue of time, so we can’t see how territories may have changed over time.
All that said, I really like the immediacy of this map and the way it shows those overlaps. According to the map, the Graduate Center is on Lenape land, and the Delaware and Montauk languages were spoken here. The map also includes links to information about these languages and the websites for the nations/tribes (both words seem to be used in the links?)
In any case, the other interesting resource I came across was this Indigenous Mapping Workshop, which provides ” geospatial training and capacity building to bring culturally relevant and appropriate earth observation technologies to support Indigenous mapping.” This workshop has been offered annually since 2014. I poked around the website but didn’t see links to any of the projects people have created in this workshop. However, it reminds me Miriam Posner’s piece, ” “What’s Next: The Radical, Unrealized Potential of Digital Humanities.” In that piece, she critiques the way that many DH projects have built on existing, colonialist infrastructure. I’m interested in how the work done in this workshop breaks free of that.
There seems to be increasing interest and activity in this space, particularly around what it means to decolonize DH. An archival project I like is the Tribal Writers Digital Library and their inclusion of material from more “”ephemeral”” sources. There’s also some beautiful poetry here: https://ualrexhibits.org/tribalwriters/
Thank you Nancy for this research! As I learned a bit about mapping in the finding data for mapping workshop last week, I became interested in knowing what alternatives to colonial calculations of space and time exist. Thinking about mapping the Colombian Caribbean and knowing that while Google Maps satellite photos can provide a pretty accurate physical rendition of space at present and in recent years, data on what happens and what happened in the mapped space is added to maps, and we need to ask who added what data, when, why and how, with what biases and agendas, and what data wasn’t added.
Thank you for sharing this incredible resource Nancy! On the same topic, Columbia oral History program announced just today the Scholars of indigenous oral history award!
Although DH can be applied to maps, I’m not entirely sure whether it’s a good idea. DH tries to tease out patterns and clusters from large data sets, but in the case of maps, this might lead to an unfair “majority rules” situation. If one people is numerically larger than another, there will probably be a lot more references to their territorial claims, even if their claims might not be justified. This is not just a matter of colonial claims vs. indigenous claims, but also conflicting claims between different indigenous groups.