This Columbus day, celebrate the person who really discovered America — aka, pretty much everyone except Christopher Columbus.
By now, it’s well known that Indigenous people populated America well before Columbus arrived, and he wasn’t even the first European to land here.
So instead of throwing up a dumb Columbus meme on Facebook, use your free time to see what Indigenous groups lived in your area using the Native Land map.
The map is available online and via the Native Land app (for both iOS and Android). Just type in your address, and you’ll be able to see what indigenous group(s) once lived there or nearby. It’s even possible members of that community still live in that area, though of course many native people were displaced, thanks to, uh, centuries of shitty federal policy.
The map was created by Victor G. Temprano, a Canadian who was “born in traditional Katzie territory and raised in the Okanagan” and who began work on the project in 2015. It currently covers the USA, Canada, much of Mexico, Australia, South Africa, and expanding amounts of territory in South America.
“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,” Temprano explains on the site. “They were rarely created in good faith, and are often used in wrong ways.”
Temprano told Mashable that the map initially served as a “kind of resource pointed at settlers and non-indigenous people to, in a not-too-confrontational way, start thinking about indigenous history.”
Since then, Temprano says it’s become a broader resource, used by native folks and teachers in the classroom seeking to spark conversations about colonialism.
Native Land is constantly being updated with user feedback and isn’t vetted as an academic resource. The map — which is funded by Temprano’s map start-up, Mapster — recently hired a research assistant to help edit currently mapped territories, add new territories and include relevant historical background. They hope to obtain additional funding and are looking for Indigenous folks to serve on a Board of Directors.
Still, Temprano cautions that even an expanded team can’t do all the Herculean research required to convey the complexity of indigenous history. Borders weren’t always neatly drawn. Groups moved into and out of areas. Not all historical data available is accurate data.
It’s the questions the map raises that matter most. Native Lands is supposed to kick off a conversation about colonialism — past, present, and ongoing.
“The purpose of the map isn’t supposed to be a historical curiosity,” Temprano told Mashable.
So type in your address — then search a little more.