Native Land Digital is a Canadian not-for-profit organization, incorporated in December 2018. Native Land Digital is Indigenous-led, with an Indigenous Executive Director and majority Indigenous Board of Directors who oversee and direct the organization. Numerous non-Indigenous people also contribute as members of our Advisory Council. The Board of Directors govern finances, set priorities, and appoint staff members as required.
Tanya Ruka – Executive Director
Tanya Te Miringa Te Rorarangi Ruka is a Māori Indigenous artist and designer living in Te Whānganui-a-Tara, Aotearoa (Wellington, New Zealand). She is of Ngati Pakau, Te Uriroroi, Te Parawhau, Te Mahurehure Ngapuhi, and Waitaha descent. Tanya has a Master of Art and Design, and works as a Lecturer Mātauranga Māori at Te Kura Hoahoa (School of Design & Innovation), Te Herenga Waka (Victoria University).
She is active in environmental issues from an indigenous perspective in Aotearoa and globally. Working with the Waitaha Executive Grandmothers Council she has been documenting and mapping the sacred stories of her Tupuna ancestors as evidence for tribal environmental issues involving land and water protection claims through the Treaty of Waitangi.
As a Māori artist she is inspired by her ancestry, and the creation stories that place the land as ancestor, and the Master Navigator voyagers of the Pacific who always kept their eyes on the horizon in hopeful anticipation, bringing the tribe safely to land. Tanya works with Mātauranga Māori (ancestral knowledge and navigational tools) to design pathways of transitional Indigenous Futures and Indigenous Speculative Design. Working in the digital realm creating stories that firmly place indigenous concepts, knowledge, perspectives and ways of being in the landless territories of new imagined futures. She is currently working with dedicated indigenous and non-indigenous textile researchers, academics, scientists, engineers, growers and local Iwi (tribes). Documenting the journey to develop circular designed, native plant fibre materials and textiles that will help to connect people back to the land through indigenous ways of knowing. She has developed a Community Rongoā (Māori native plant medicine) Forest initiative weaving together ancestral knowledge with integrated app based technology.
Tanya hopes to continue the legacy of her late Uncle, who was sent by her Grandmother into the world to open up pathways of communication with other indigenous tribal nations. As Executive Director for Native Land Digital she is honoured to be a part of the team and is dedicated to the acknowledgement and representation of indigenous tribal voices and their homelands.
Victor Sauca – Research Lead
Victor Sauca is a Saraguro from the Kichwa Nation located in the southern Ecuadorian Andes. He is interested in coming to know himself and the uni/multiverse through his and other peoples’ ancestral teachings such as the Amazonian, Andean and Norse Peoples. Currently, Victor lives in Saraguro and works with other partners on designing a place-based program for children and youth in his community to facilitate direct relations with and gain knowledge from their land through diverse disciplines, local knowledge and self-discovery. As a food-sovereignty supporter, he is also working on expanding his knowledge of local native seeds and forests through self-educations and knowledge exchange with local people while also working on his own farm and family’s lands. Victor holds a BA in First Nations and Indigenous Studies from the University of British Columbia. His role in the Native-Land team as a Research Assistant requires him to attend the observations or suggestions sent by users, interact with them vial email and continue updating, fixing and adding new maps to the platform.
Makayla Rawlins – Volunteer Coordinator
Makayla is a museum nerd and a Payómkawichum (Luiseño) woman who is very passionate about embracing all aspects of her identity. Her academic background is in preserving cultural heritage and advocating for Indigenous voices within institutional spaces.
Makayla was raised and currently resides on her ancestral land in Southern California. She is an alumna from UC Santa Barbara and has her BA in Art History and Anthropology with a minor in American Indian and Indigenous Studies. She is passionate about preserving cultural knowledge for future generations. For this reason, she felt drawn to work with Native Land Digital as its mission is to amplify Indigenous voices through making knowledge about Indigenous peoples and lands accessible to all!
She has worked with Santa Barbara California Student Opportunity and Access Program (Cal-SOAP) as a Peer Advisor at local schools, and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) as a Museum Technician in their Collections Management department.
Emily Haines – Research Assistant
Emily Haines is a Métis and Polish-Canadian woman originally from the north end of Winnipeg, Manitoba, in the homeland of the Anishinaabe, Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, and Métis on Treaty 1 territory. Her Métis relations have lived across the Métis homeland for centuries and include the Malaterre, Larocque, McIvor, Fleury, and Adam families among others. She has been living in Mistahi Sâkâhikan (St. Albert, Alberta) since 2001 and now lives and works in Amiskwacîwâskahikan (Edmonton, Alberta). She holds a BA in Anthropology and Classics and is currently pursuing a master’s degree through the Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology at the University of Alberta, specializing in Indigenous Archaeologies. Her research involves investigating sites of historical Métis occupation in Edmonton, using GIS to map these sites onto the modern landscape, and to both encourage the vitality of modern Métis communities and to re-visualize Edmonton and other cities as Indigenous spaces.
Racquel Banaszak – Digital Communications and Content Creator
Racquel Banaszak is an Anishinaabekwe from Zagwaandagaawininiwag (Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe) and an enrolled citizen of Mashkiiziibii (Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe). She is a visual artist and Indigenous education advocate based in Bde Ota Othunwe/Gakaabikaang (Minneapolis, MN). She earned a graduate certificate in Native American Studies from Montana State University (2018) and a Bachelor of Science degree from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (2012). She studied Aboriginal Visual Culture at the Ontario College of Art & Design University in Toronto, Canada. Her artistic practices focus on Indigenous histories, lifeways, and contemporary representation. She is interested in how federal Indian laws and policies have influenced personal and community narratives and identities. She advocated for Indigenous peoples and accurate representation through Indigenous education programming including advancing Indigenous curriculum for all and educational equity.
Board of Directors
Shauna Johnson (Interim Director of Finance and Operations)
Shauna Johnson is Coast Salish from the Tsawout First Nation on her mother’s side and Tsimshian from Laxkwala’ams on her father’s side. She has a Master of Science degree in Indigenous Community Planning (ICP) and has specialized expertise in providing planning support for Indigenous communities to revitalize and promote Indigenous community planning research, methods and practices grounded firmly within Indigenous laws, legal traditions and ways of knowing and being. She is a registered Applied Scientific Technologist (A.Sc.T.) and is currently working towards becoming a Registered Professional Planner (MIP, RPP). She has experience working with Indigenous communities on housing strategies, comprehensive community plans, (CPP), strategic, land use (reserve based and watershed level based), environmental management, marine spatial/use plans (MSP/MUP), economic development plans and Indigenous food systems projects. She is also an adjunct professor at University of British Columbia (UBC) in the School of Community of Regional Planning (SCARP) Indigenous Community Planning (ICP) program, mentoring, supervising and co-teaching ICP practicum students.
Rudo Kemper (Interim Director of Technology)
Rudo is a non-native geographer and technologist with over a decade of experience supporting Indigenous communities in mapping and monitoring their lands, and building digital tools that increase community self-determination, access to land rights, and land management capabilities. His professional experience includes work with Indigenous and other local communities throughout the Amazon, Caribbean, North America, and East Africa, and steering the direction of several digital mapping tools and platforms. Rudo currently works with the Cadasta Foundation as Chief Program Officer, where he develops, leads, and manages program strategy and implementation. Prior to joining Cadasta, Rudo worked as Senior Programmatic Lead at Digital Democracy and as Mapping and Programs Support Manager at the Amazon Conservation Team. He also serves on the open-source stewards team of Terrastories, the circle of advisors for the Seeds of Wisdom Foundation, and he was the inaugural president of the International Society for Participatory Mapping.
Mesiah Burciaga-Hameed (Interim Executive Director)
Mesiah Burciaga-Hameed is a two-spirit Afro-Indigenous youth educator. They utilize their ancestors practices to bring about tangible change to the way we relate to time and our legacy. Mesiah grew up on the frontlines in Occupied Ohlone territory (Oakland California) and occupies Lene Lenape territory (New York City). Today Mesiah works on influencing a group of youth educators on subjects such as water rights, sovereignty, and earth stewardship. With these youth we are collectively creating a blueprint for how to be in deeper relation with our bloodline’s by honoring a timeline of truth.
Kyle Napier (Interim Director of Communications)
Kyle Napier is Dene/nêhiyaw Métis and a member of Northwest Territory Métis Nation. He grew up in small communities in Tu Nedhe in Denendeh, colonially referred to as the Northwest Territories. He has led and assisted community efforts and projects supporting Indigenous language revitalization, reclamation and acquisition through use of Indigenous technologies and decolonial tools, curriculum-building which centers the land and Indigenous worldviews, and a community-first approach to project-making with, by, for and from Indigenous communities.
Moka Apiti (Interim Director of Strategy)
Moka Apiti is Maori, (Ngāti Wairere, Ngāti Hikairo, Ngāti Te Wehi, Ngāti Porou and Te Whanau a Apanui) and Aotearoa-based. Moka is the Owner/Managing Director at Digital Navigators Ltd and the Co-developer of Te Whata, an innovative Indigenous data platform designed with the intention of moving Maori from being data consumers to data designers. Moka is also the Owner of Indigenous Mapping Wananga (Indigenous Geospatial training initiative in Aotearoa) and works as an Indigenous (Maori) GIS practitioner working with Maori communities to graphically show through visuals (i.e. maps/Google Earth/GIS) cultural maps and the issues the communities face. This includes land alienation over time, resource and environmentally management.
Aaron Carapella is the owner of TribalNationsMaps.com, the most expansive print maps available of Indigenous territories worldwide. His maps are extensively researched and used widely in education. He is Cherokee and lives in Oklahoma with his wife. He has fought for Native rights for many years on issues like mascot removal, education reform, sacred site issues, and more, and lives within the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.
Stephanie Pyne is a highly experienced expert in fields that bring together Indigenous Studies and geography. She has a Ph.D. in Geography and Cartography and has worked on many mapping efforts with the Carleton Geomatics and Cartographic Research Center. She lives in Ontario, Canada, and is currently engaged in numerous projects.
Leena Minifie is a Gitxaala (Tsimshian) communications, digital strategist and media producer. She is located in the unceded Coast Salish Territory of Vancouver. Leena holds a BA in Indigenous Studies and BFA in New Media from the Institute of American Indian Arts in New Mexico. She has worked as a journalist for agencies such as Ricochet Media, CBC Radio One, CTV First Story, Native American Calling (US), APTN National News and acted as a freelance producer.
Tyler McCreary is an Assistant Professor of Geography at Florida State University and an Adjunct Professor of First Nations Studies at University of Northern British Columbia. He is the author of Shared Histories: Witsuwit’en-Settler Relations in Smithers, British Columbia, 1913 – 1973 (Creekstone Press, 2018 – winner of the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing in British Columbia). He is also a co-editor of the forthcoming book Settler City Limits: Indigenous Resurgence and Colonial Violence in the Urban Prairie West (University of Manitoba Press and Michigan State University Press, 2019). In addition, he has written two dozen scholarly journal articles and book chapters. His research focuses on Indigenous responses to settler colonialism and racial capitalism.
Hailing from Kitchisibi Ewidjidjiwok (Ottawa River Watershed), and currently residing in Tenàgàdino / Tenàgàdin odenà (City of Gatineau, Quebec) on Omàmìwininì Anishinàbeg Aki (the ancestral territory of the Algonquin people), Jean-Luc Fournier is a toponymist and historical researcher, and a dynamic and effective communicator with an array of professional experience working with Indigenous organizations, institutions and community groups. Jean-Luc holds an honours degree in Indigenous Studies and Environmental Studies from the University of Ottawa. He has been involved in historical and place name research since 2005. Jean-Luc has worked in different capacities for the Algonquin Nation Secretariat Tribal Council, the First Nation Confederacy of Cultural Education Centers and maintains a close relationship with the leadership, knowledge keepers, elders and members of the Kitigan-Zibi Anishinàbeg community. He has worked voluntarily and consistently on many research endeavors regarding local Anishinabeg history and has almost completely devoted the last decade to Algonquin Anishinabeg toponymic investigations throughout the territory. In 2017, Jean-Luc joined the Public Service as a Toponymy Analyst. Jean-Luc’s priority as always been to contribute to the cultural and linguistic resurgence of the Omàmìwininì Anishinàbeg. He strongly believes that the means to do so is by building meaningful relationships and fostering healthy rapports with members of the Nation, from whom the guidance, teachings and customary protocols originate.