Enter your ZIP code into the Native Lands App and an interactive map will tell you the area’s original language and tribal ties.
You cannot find a corner of this continent that does not hold ancient history, Indigenous value, and pre-colonial place names and stories. And every place we occupy was once the homeland for other people, most of whom didn’t leave willingly.
Whose land are you on? Start with a visit to native-land.ca. Native Land is both a website and an app that seeks to map Indigenous languages, treaties, and territories across Turtle Island. You might type in New York, New York, for example, and find that the five boroughs are actually traditional Lenape and Haudenosaunee territory.
On the website and in the app, you can enter the ZIP code or Canadian or American name for any town. The interactive map will zoom in on your inquiry, color-code it, and pull up data on the area’s Indigenous history, original language, and tribal ties.
The project is run by Victor Temprano out of British Columbia, Canada. A self-described “settler,” he said that the idea came to him while driving near his home—traditional Squamish territory. He saw many signs in the English language with the Squamish original place names indicated in parentheses underneath. He thought to himself, “Why isn’t the English in brackets?”
Temprano emphasizes that Native Land maps are constantly being refined by user input, and he welcomes data submissions. On the website, he also cautions about the nature of mapping. “I feel that Western maps of Indigenous nations are very often inherently colonial, in that they delegate power according to imposed borders that don’t really exist in many nations throughout history. They were rarely created in good faith, and are often used in wrong ways.”
Reorientation to the Indigenous perspective, though, just might offer an entirely new way to experience this continent.
Written By Chelsey Luger
Chelsey Luger wrote this article for The Decolonize Issue, the Spring 2018 issue of YES! Magazine. Chelsey is a journalist from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, currently based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Her work can be found in the Atlantic, the Hufffington Post, Al Jazeera America, and more. She is the co-founder of Well For Culture, an indigenous wellness movement.