Native Land Digital strives to create and foster conversations about the history of colonialism, Indigenous ways of knowing, and settler-Indigenous relations, through educational resources such as our map and Territory Acknowledgement Guide. We strive to go beyond old ways of talking about Indigenous people and to develop a platform where Indigenous communities can represent themselves and their histories on their own terms. In doing so, Native Land Digital creates spaces where non-Indigenous people can be invited and challenged to learn more about the lands they inhabit, the history of those lands, and how to actively be part of a better future going forward together.
The Importance of Land
Land is something sacred to all of us, whether we consciously appreciate it or not — it is the space upon which we play, live, eat, find love, and experience life. The land is ever-changing and ever-shifting, giving us — and other creatures and beings on the earth — an infinite number of gifts and lessons.
For Native Land Digital, what we are mapping is more than just a flat picture. The land itself is sacred, and it is not easy to draw lines that divide it up into chunks that delineate who “owns” different parts of land. In reality, we know that the land is not something to be exploited and “owned”, but something to be honoured and treasured. However, because of the complexities of history, the kind of mapping we undertake is an important exercise, insofar as it brings an awareness of the real lived history of Indigenous peoples and nations in a long era of colonialism.
We aim to improve the relationship of people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, with the land around them and with the real history and sacredness of that land. This involves acknowledging and righting the wrongs of history, and also involves a personal journey through the importance of connecting with the earth, its creatures, and its teachings.
Thus, while we make a strong effort to teach about colonialism and to bring forth Indigenous narratives, we also strive to integrate what is sometimes called an “Indigenous way of knowing” when it comes to the importance and sacredness of land in our daily lives. We hope to inspire people to gain a better understanding of themselves, their ancestors, and the world they live in, so that we can all move forward into a better future.
Native Land Digital has a wide range of impacts on individuals, classrooms, and others who view and interact with our map and associated content. We provide a Teacher’s Guide, Territory Acknowledgement Generator, a blog, and other content in an effort to widen this impact along the lines of our missions.
We are happy to have found that these maps have made an impact in people’s lives. Some settlers may be, for the first time, encountering the depth, breadth, and complexity of Indigenous history on the land, and we hope this leads to further exploration and understanding of the history of colonialism. Indigenous people may be glad to see their nation mapped, and some may never have seen the large extent of their traditional territories on a standard “Western” map before. Some people may be made uncomfortable by the new information and history the map brings forth — but we are secure in knowing that truth is the best teacher, and we hope to provide the best information we can to help people come to their own conclusions about themselves and their place in the modern world.
Native Land Digital also works to contain the negative impacts we can sometimes make. This, most commonly, involves when we get things wrong — when we mislabel a territory with an incorrect name, when we forget or exclude a nation by accident, or when we are unable to respond to serious comments and fixes in a timely manner. We know how deeply these maps can affect people, and particularly Indigenous people, who have experienced genocide, erasure, and massive ignorance by institutions for hundreds of years. We strive to do our best on this front, but we do sometimes fall short, and we are working to improve in all the ways we can manage.
We also, as explained by our disclaimer on the front page, encourage people to treat these maps as a starting point and to do their own research in engaging with communities and history themselves. We do not regard these maps as anything near a legal quality for land claims or disputes, and we do not aim to make any claims as to what territories are “correct” or “incorrect” in this more legal sense. We are aware that devious corporations or individuals may attempt to use these maps for ill, and we strive to make that difficult to do by making our site as transparent as possible.
We are proud of our map, but we know we have a long way to go in making it better and in making our organization stronger and more resilient. We hope to have you come with us on this journey, and add your voice.