Story at a glance
- European colonization resulted in the deaths of millions of Indigenous peoples and the loss of their lands, lifestyles and freedoms.
- Today, Indigenous Americans are fighting for acknowledgement of the lives and land that were taken from them.
- An app allows users to map historically Indigenous lands as well as native languages and past treaties.
If you’ve never heard a territory acknowledgement before, here’s what it might sound like for Changing America, which is based in Washington, D.C.,: “We want to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Piscataway and Nacotchtank (or Anacostan) peoples.”
Whether it’s just a sentence or a more in-depth acknowledgement that includes inviting members of the tribe or nation to speak, this simple act can go a long way toward addressing the enduring trauma of colonization suffered by Indigenous peoples. But if you’re on Indigenous land, where do you start? Turns out, there’s an app for that.
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Native Land allows you to plug in any location and see whose land you are standing on. The map, run by Canadian nonprofit Native Land Digital, goes beyond North America into South America, Australia, New Zealand, several Pacific Islands and some parts of northeastern Europe. You can toggle through different territories, languages and treaties, many of which overlap.
It’s not perfect, the website acknowledges, and isn't intended to represent official or legal boundaries of any Indigenous nations — but it's a start. Even now, Indigenous tribes are battling with the federal government and private entities for control over their native land.
"These acknowledgements can easily be a token gesture rather than a meaningful practice. All settlers, including recent arrivants, have a responsibility to consider what it means to acknowledge the history and legacy of colonialism," said the organization on its website.
The Indigenous-led nonprofit has partnered with the California Institute of the Arts and other research organizations as well as individual researchers to put together not only the map but a list of resources for users to further educate themselves on Indigenous issues. Funded by the Kalliopeia Foundation, the project is still growing and is working toward becoming a charity that can undertake donation drives and manage volunteers, among other things.
"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," said Native Land Digital on its website.
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