Maps of traditional Indigenous territories

May 26, 2016

“I’ve noticed a trend that people maintain their own tribal name based on being in their traditional homeland. I think a lot of it is because the names they used for themselves usually are descriptive phrases. So, a lot of tribes call themselves, ‘we are the people at the mouth of the river’. If you have been removed from your territory through the trail of tears, or the long walk by like a thousand miles from where that mouth of the river is people no longer think of themselves as ‘the people at the mouth of the river’. When you get dispossessed of your traditional homeland, there is a cultural rift that happens. A loss that happens from being off of where you are supposed to be.” Aaron Carapella, Two Row Times, 2013

There are maps of reserves (reservations in the United States), maps of language groups, maps of treaty-making, regional maps of traditional territories but up until recently there weren’t any that showed the original Indigenous traditional territories with original Indigenous names.


Aaron Carapella has created a series of unique maps that show Turtle Island in pre-Columbus form - before there were states, provinces, and countries. (the above map is not one of Aaron Carapella's creations)


If learning more about terminology is of interest to you, download your copy of our free ebook "Indigenous Peoples: Guide to Terminology."

His first Tribal Nations map is of the United States and displays the Indigenous name and traditional territory of approximately 590 Native nations. It took him 14 years and countless hours of research, phone calls and visits to communities. And by the way, Carapella is not a cartographer by trade - he is a Native American (of Cherokee heritage) who as a teenager was frustrated by the paucity of maps showing Native American tribes. So he decided to create one which was so well received he now has additional maps of Nations indigenous to Canada, Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean and Alaska.

The maps inform Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike about who was here, what they called themselves and how expansive their territories were prior to European settlements. In his research he discovered that many of the nations had never seen their name on a map - as if they had never existed. By using the traditional names - the names they gave themselves - Carapella is making an important contribution to the preservation of endangered languages because “you lose a sense of who you are” when you stop using your original name.


If learning more about terminology is of interest to you, download your copy of our free ebook "Indigenous Peoples: Guide to Terminology."




Updated August, 2016 


Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous History

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