October 11: Indigenous Maps, Other Spatial Ontologies + Epistemologies

Cempoala, 1580, Benson Latin American Collection, UT Austin.

Map Critiques: Andrew

Guest: 4-5pm: Amir Sheikh, ORISE Research Fellow, US Forest Service Environmental Anthropologist,
University of Washington



Nabil Ahmed, “Land Rights: Counter-Mapping West Papua,” continent. 4:4 (2015.

Gwilyn Lucas Eades, Maps and Memes: Redrawing Culture, Place, and Identity in Indigenous Communities (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015).

Julianna A. Hazlewood and the Communities of La Chiquita and Guadualito, “Court Issues Ruling in World’s First ‘Rights of Nature’ Lawsuit,” Intercontinental Cry (February 16, 2017).

History of Cartography Volume 2: three volumes on traditional cartographies | Dallas Hunt and Shaun A. Stevenson, “Decolonizing Geographies of Power: Indigenous Digital Counter-Mapping Practices on Turtle Island,” Settler Colonial Studies (2016).

Mishuana Goeman, Mark My Words: Native Women Mapping Our Nations (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013).

Illinois State Museum, Native American Mapping Traditions.

Karin Amimoto Ingersoll, Waves of Knowing: A Seascape Epistemology (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016).

G. Malcolm Lewis, Ed., Cartographic Encounters: Perspectives on Native American Mapmaking and Map Use (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998).

Renee Pualani Lois, with Moana Kahele, Kanaka Hawai’I Cartography: Hula, Navigation, and Oratory (Portland: Oregon State University, 2017).

Rachel Olson, Jeffrey Hackett & Steven DeRoy, “Mapping the Digital Terrain: Towards Indigenous Geographic Information and Spatial Data Quality Indicators for Indigenous Knowledge and Traditional Land-Use Data Collection,” The Cartographic Journal 53:4 (2016).

Gina Dawn Richard, “Radical Cartographies: Relational Epistemologies and Principles for Successful Indigenous Cartographic Praxis,” Dissertation, University of Arizona, 2015.

Eva Salinas, with Sébastien Caquard, “The Politics of Making Maps,” Canadian International Council (November 12, 2014).

Teresa Scassa, Nate J. Engler & D.R. Fraser Taylor, “Legal Issues in Mapping Traditional Knowledge: Cartography in the Canadian North,” The Cartographic Journal 52:1 (2015): 41-50.

Singing the Country to Life,” ABC (July 3, 2016).

UCLA, Mapping Indigenous LA.

Helen Watson, “Aboriginal-Australian Maps,” Maps Are Territories.

Jeffrey Yoo Warren, “Grassroots Mapping: Tools for Participatory and Activist Cartography,” Masters Thesis, MIT, 2010.

Margaret Wickens Pearce, “The Last Piece Is You,” The Cartographic Journal 51:2 (2014): 107-22.

Denis Wood, “The Outside Critique: Indigenous Mapping” In Rethinking the Power of Maps (New York: Guilford Press, 2010): 129-142. 


4 Replies

  • Sturgis, Sam, “Kids in India Are Sparking Urban Planning Changes by Mapping Slums”, CITYLAB, 02/19/2015

    Sam talks about Indian children drawing maps to target changes in slums and position it as a great idea, but at the same time the author states, “by 2028, India is expected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country – likely meaning more impoverished settlements.” He concludes by saying that by creating these maps the new generation of Indian children will be aware of disparity and eager to correct it. I am worried that these kids will actually feel hopelessness as they will see the growth of impoverished settlements and little of change caused by their mapping. I think that officials in India know about the problems in slums and the issue is not about identifying what has to be fixed, the issue is about corruption and willingness to fix slums. So I am a bit skeptical about this mapping approach. It is good that children are working together, learning about their neighborhood and how to draw maps, but this mapping only identifies problems that have been already identified by many professionals. How much longer do we need to identify something over and over before things will actually be done? There are different non-profit organizations that send their money for projects like this one, but do you think that this money could be used on actual physical change instead of talking about the change?

  • Seeing (from) Digital Peripheries: Technology and Transparency in Kenya’s Silicon Savannah + Mapping Indigenous Depth of Place

    When reading these articles, I was mostly interested in the tension in the authenticity of indigenous maps in regards to using technology to form them. On the one hand, much is lost when using technology to map cultural knowledge and heritage: for instance, according to the article, Indigenous maps often have different names for places of importance, which would conflict with Western names. Technological representation methods can distort, mis-translate, and even ‘Westernize’ the culture, especially as they conflict with the traditional methods of passing down knowledge (in many cases, orally). Technology also cannot grasp the experience of space, which limits our understanding of the culture itself.
    On the other hand, mapping is a strong message for political & cultural recognition, and using technologies for indigenous mapping equalizes the plausibility of the information to that of other digital maps.

    Another concept that sparked my interest was the idea of vulnerability when mapping cultures: although “making the invisible visible”(as quoted from the piece on Kenya) is a form of asserting power and political recognition, it also exposes many communities that are trying to remain invisible to remain safe. This reminds me of refugee camps that have become so dense that they’ve formed their own micro economies and communities (such as the Shatila camp in Beirut, whose residents even have their own land ownership documents and have described the camp as more like Palestine than Lebanon). I haven’t found an actual map that documents these micro economies, which I think is keeping these communities safe from being shut down.

  • Thanks, Reem! You’ve highlighted some key political issues — e.g., what curtail values are compromised and what political power is gained when we translate traditional cartographies into western maps, and the vulnerability of visibility — that will undoubtedly come up in our discussion today!

Leave a Reply