There is this interesting website called Native Land which pinpoints any indigenous nation that held original claim to any land where an address or city is typed in. This map also includes information about indigenous claims in Australia, New Zealand, Greenland, Canada, Central America, and South America.
As I can see in the featured photo, my entire state belongs to the Lenape nation. I would say that it belongs to them because there are plenty of place-names that are derived from their language. It does shame me that New Jersey is known less as Lenapehoking and more as America’s embarrassment.
It should be noted that this app was invented by a Canadian programmer named Victor Temprano who learned about Indigenous land ownership in British Columbia. The juxtapositions of Indigenous studies and programming really do show that this interdisciplinary track really can create unique results. In this unique result, it raised the very question I addressed in this blog, which is the fact that indigenous people deserve more credit than already given, since they are tied to the land, in such a way that their own language and ways of living are encoded by it.
Although the website itself claims that it is not for use in legal matters, such as tribal and governmental disputes, there are mentions of the treaties involved. So, it really does bring into question whether we (as in descendants of the original colonizers and the immigrants) really hold claim to land and whether we truly know about it. When Temprano was creating this app, the indigenous maps of Indigenous territories became sources more important than the written and oral histories (which are only referenced when there is no map). To be indigenous to a land means to be the original dwellers on it and to have lived on it for thousands of years. Compare that to the (at most) 500 years that the colonizers have lived and thrived off the land. It is a blip compared to the intrinsic connection indigenous peoples have to their land.
The concept of land ownership itself is different among native peoples. In their cultures, they are not entitled to the land, but beholden to the land. In other words, they do not abuse it, rather they depend on it. This is the exact case of the Lakota nation, who were known to have made every use of a single buffalo. So this symbiotic relationship, as Professor Patricia A. Shaw described, would have been established since their hides were used for tipis, clothing, and moccasins; bones for needle and awl; and meat for sustenance.
If there is not any legal controversies that would exist, then the purpose of Native Land would be for educational purposes, letting tourists and non-natives in general know that the area they are visiting originally belongs to the tribe that dwelled on it. This was a point raised by journalist Leena Minifie, who is one of Temprano’s collaborators and is from the Gitxaala Nation in Tsimshian land.
The fact that indigenous peoples are made to publicly acknowledge their land, whether it is in an empty stretch of land or a metropolitan area, can lead to further inquiry about how those people lived on that land before colonization. Since the Australian city Adelaide acknowledged the Kaurna nation’s indigenous status, this lead to their website posting the original Kaurna names and pronunciations of parks, squares, and bridges.
There is this word that I see used a lot, which is “decolonization.” It does not necessarily mean non-natives emigrating from lands that were settled, rather it means an incremental inclusion of Indigenous knowledge, in such a way that it has authority in places wherever it exists, such as academia. This definitely has to do with the use of rivers. There was a case in British Columbia where an agreement was reached between the BC government and the indigenous tribes of the Broughton archipelago that there would need to be consent given by the tribes in order to farm salmon. That case has been part of an ongoing debate about the term “consent” and how much power the indigenous community has to determine whether a company is to set its designs on the rivers or the landscape. That word alone would provide a discussion about indigenous ownership of the land, whether they were already recognized or if they are making claims of recognition. It would also uncover the jurisdiction over land that either the national government or the tribal government has.
There is definitely a case to be made about land ownership as it applies to the native population. It would definitely make non-natives more educated about the land they are living in and not take it for granted. Doing so would make the indigenous community more relevant and no longer as a forgotten part of history and would provide them more jurisdiction over the lands they originally came from.