MappingBack at the Indigenous Mapping Workshop 2018:

Designing Alternative Indigenous Maps

During the Indigenous Mapping Workshop 2018 in Montreal, Quebec, the MappingBack collective hosted a total of eight training sessions: six during the first three days dedicated to producing collaborative maps, and two on the fourth and final day organized as an exhibit of the maps produced earlier in the week.  

During the production sessions, participants were invited to think about how they see their territory and to work with pencils, paper, painting, fabric, clay, scissors, computers and any other material to create maps that reflect their visions. The creation of these maps were facilitated by Indigenous and non-indigenous mapmakers with experience in alternative forms of cartography. The overall goal of these sessions was to expose participants to the endless possibilities of representing territories, stories, and epistemologies differently, and to promote the development of spatial representations that emerge from members of Indigenous communities. Participants were invited to join us for as many of these six sessions as they wanted, and although most participants came for only one mapping session, many returned to view other works produced during the week.

Overall, seven maps were produced, which are featured below in this section of the gallery.  

The Petal Map

Produced by: Brent Denniston, Mary Denniston, Laura Shillington, Sejal Lal, Serrena Francis, Heather Elliott, Annita Lucchesi, Sebastien Caquard, Tom McGurk

The Paradox of Roads

Produced by: Paige Isaac, Kaitlin Young, Elaine Stone, Neomi Jayatne, Ambe Chenemu, Heather Elliott, Annita Lucchesi

The process for this map arose out of discussions surrounding roadways.  Roads present a unique challenge for many rural communities, including First Nations.  Roads allow for the movement of people and are often the lifeline of remote communities. Paradoxically, while allowing services to be extended into these communities, they offer access to unwelcome visitors.  The map emerged out of all of our stories surrounding experiences with rural and remote roads- each of us explaining different interactions, experiences, and worldviews based on our positionality. These varying subject-positions allow us to see through different lenses offered on the map.  

Look through the glasses or monocle to see the landscape transformed by the colonial gaze.

Water refuses to hold your secrets

Produced by: Kim-Ly Thompson, Leena Minifie, Nicholas Cuba, Heather Elliott, Annita Lucchesi, and others

This is an interactive map, encouraging the map reader to peer through a sparkle-infused pond to break through colonial constructs and allow Water to reveal the secrets that she carries.  This map emerged from a discussion around how crimes are often attempted to be hidden in waterways. Violence to Indigenous bodies is buried in Water. But Water refuses to hold these secrets and stories were shared as to how Water has acted as an accomplice in the search for justice.  In this case, the base layer of the map shows an underwater world with the word Water written in twelve Indigenous languages, revealing Water to be an active being with agency and in relationship with us.

Whose Land is it Anyway?

Produced by: Charlotte Adams, Kaitlin Kok, Melissa Castron, Tom McGurk, Mary Kate Craig, Sebastien Caquard

The design of this map started with a conversation about the increasing importance of carbon offset and its forthcoming consequences on Indigenous communities. On the one hand this can be seen as new opportunities for communities by enabling them to be in charge of managing forestry to sequester carbon in a traditional way (and to earn some money for this). But the likelihood of this to happen is not very high, since most communities don’t have territorial rights to make this happen. Therefore, it is highly possible that big companies – that are often a large part of the problem when it comes to producing greenhouse gas emissions – might obtain concessions to manage large chunks of forested areas based on their own productivist agendas, while in the process being paid to do this. For instance, large oil companies could invest in large monoculture forestry management which would enable them to generate new “green” profits by planting trees to sequester the CO2 largely produced by their extractive activities.  

This scenario made us think of the territory as a game board in which the goal is to manage large chunks of territory to sequester many tons of carbon. Players have to deal with all kinds of issues such as new governmental regulations, natural disasters, Indigenous resistance, social acceptability and carbon value fluctuation. They have to be strategic and buying and selling forested concessions and carbon offset. The winner is the one who generates the maximum of profits. This is a game that should appeal to the entire family since it conveys positive environmental values and helps developing business skills.

Renaming the Le Westin

Produced by: John Bishop, Tara Rush, Jen Castro, Annita Lucchesi, Sebastien Caquard, Tom McGurk

Renaming Le Westin was inspired by the work of Ogimaa Mikana: Reclaiming/Renaming Project out of Toronto, an effort to restore Anishinaabemowin place names to the streets, avenues, roads, paths, and trials of Gichi Kiiwenging (Toronto) in order to transform a landscape that often obscures or makes invisible the presence of Indigenous peoples.

The process of creating this map grew out of discussions about place names. During the brainstorming and discussion portion of the charrette process, the topic of modern places being given Indigenous names came up. The concept of renaming commercial and other locations of popular western culture with Indigenous names was talked about in detail. For example, Wal-Mart being renamed as or “the place where you buy things” in the language.

Building on this premise, the group decided to rename the spaces of the conference host hotel (Le Westin). The group members created new signage for various locations on the 8th floor and without permission pasted over the existing signs then waited to see what would happen.

Would people notice?

Would the signage be removed by the hotel?

Would others make new signs as well?

The new signs were undisturbed and in place the after day the renaming occurred. A presenter from the Mappingback group during the morning lecture session on the following day informed the rest of the conference attendees about the mapping and invited everyone to participate by renaming various elements of Le Westin.

Forms of Displacement

Produced by: Colleen Hele Cardinal, John McLean, Heather Elliott, Annita Lucchesi, Josee-Anne Langlois, Genessa Bates

With a shared interest in mapping social issues in Indigenous communities, a small group of us gathered to share ideas and receive feedback.  In our group discussion, we found that many of us, particularly the Indigenous group members, were interested in mapping similar or shared stories of violence.  For example, one group member wished to make a map addressing the stories of child removal during the 60s Scoop. Another was interested in mapping the continued internal displacement of Indigenous peoples due to the 2011 Winnipeg flood.  A third theme emerged around how map the stories of missing and murdered Indigenous women. We felt that these issues were all tied together as part of the same story, so we chose to create a collaborative map addressing the larger issue — displacement of Indigenous people due to past and present colonialism.  

In thinking about how to represent all these seemingly disparate forms of land-based violence on the same map, we were drawn to representing this narrative through the use of water imagery.  Like water, people can be removed from their environment, but also restored and brought home. We chose to create a series of raindrops cut from old maps, each with a different story of violence written on it.  These raindrops flow into a copper bucket, which is used in certain ceremonies to cleanse water and bring healing. Just as the bucket cleanses the water in the rain drops, it offers up the possibility of healing the trauma of the displacements that have occurred in our communities.  

In order to engage other community members in dialogue on displacement, we decided to include a cup with blank map raindrops, so that they too can write down their own experiences of displacement and loss and offer them up to healing.  We hope to encourage our relatives to embark on their own healing journeys.

Unraveling the Colonial Fabric

Produced by: Marina Huzenga,Sophie Sliwa, Jean-Luc Fournier, Anna Sanchez, Lisa M. Arsenault, Catriona Popoff, Genevieve Sioui, Sebastien Caquard, Heather Elliott, Annita Lucchesi