“It helps plant a seed that there’s people here before you, these are the lands that they’re on, and they’re still here.”

What traditional territory is your city on?

Are you on the territory of the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, the Seneca and Mississaugas of the Credit River? Or unceded Abenaki/Abénaquis, Kanien’kehá:ka, Haudenosauneega (St Lawrence Iroquois), and Huron-Wendat territory?

If you don’t know, a website called Native Land can help answer the question for you.

The crowd-sourced, interactive website mapping traditional territories of Indigenous people, treaties and language has grown to become so much more, and has just become a Canadian not-for-profit.

Victor Temprano launched Native Land almost five years ago, while working on a pipeline-related website. He was researching resource development projects in British Columbia, and wanted to know which Indigenous territories these projects were taking place on.

native-land

Native Land, Toronto territory locator

His company, Mapster is his full-time job, and Native Land became more of a side passion project, which is one of the reasons crowdsourcing the information is so important to him.

“I can’t put in the time I would if it was a full-time job,” said Temperano. “Canada has so many nations, and we’re expanding all over the world, that it’s a lot of research to do.”

Native Land’s territory boundaries started with Canada, but now cover other parts of the world: Australia, New Zealand, parts of South America, Central America, the Caribbean.

“If you’re not familiar with certain parts of the world, you might totally misunderstand what Indigeneity is in different parts of the world, so it’s impossible to tackle this as one person,” said Temperano.

Temperano is also a settler, which is why, as Native Land becomes a non-profit, it’s been important for him to have the board be entirely Indigenous.

‘I really believe in the tool’

“There’s a lot of difficulties in putting myself as the kind of arbiter of this information and putting myself in the position of having to decide who gets to be on the map and who doesn’t,” he said.

And that’s kind of how Leena Minifie got involved. She’s Tsimshian, and noticed that the map wasn’t portraying her home territory correctly on either side of the Canadian and Alaskan borders. So, she sent in an email correction. Her work with Native Land grew from there.

While working on Indian Horse‘s digital campaign, Minifie was part of a team that made use of Native Land’s API to do the first challenge, “On Whose Land,” where people’s IP addresses were used to locate what traditional territory they’re on. Now, she’s a member of Native Land’s formal all-Indigenous board.

“I really believe in the tool, and I use it when I do conferences, or when I talk to people, as a way to open people’s minds about territory,” Minifie said, “it helps plant a seed that there’s people here before you, these are the lands that they’re on, and they’re still here.”