Welcome to our living archive, documenting and drawing from diverse wisdoms in regards to today's environmental challenges. Hope you have a nice stay!

Homelands: Maps of Native America (various)

Homelands: Maps of Native America (various)

Our theme this month is Homelands. Special thanks to Vance Blackfox for his help with this post.

Tribal Mappings

"I think a lot of people get blown away, 'Wow, there were a lot of tribes, and they covered the whole country!'  More here.


Get to know who lived where via this great mapping tool from Native-Land.ca:

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Zuni Maps

Excerpts below taken from Counter Mapping:

Through color, relationship, and story, Zuni maps provide directions on how to return home.

Jim Enote, a traditional Zuni farmer and director of the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center, is working with Zuni artists to create maps that bring an indigenous voice and perspective back to the land, countering Western notions of place and geography and challenging the arbitrary borders imposed on the Zuni world.

The A:shiwi have been in present-day North America for thousands of years. Twelve thousand members of the tribe live on the Zuni Reservation today. Their sacred lands reach far beyond the reservation boundaries—trails of prayer snake and meander from the history of their emergence from the Grand Canyon to the story of Salt Mother’s migration, paths of song ascend the high buttes and tumble with the rain through the arroyo.

Larson Gasper, Migration of Salt Mother, 2009.

“Modern maps don’t have a memory.” (Jim Enote)

“A conventional map takes you to places—it will tell you how many miles and the fastest route. But the Zuni maps show these significant places that only a Zuni would know,” says Ronnie, “especially if you’re in a religious leadership position: you see the prayers that we say, the prayers that we hold. . . .  I incorporated a basket and prayer sticks to signify that. The prayer sticks that we make and that we offer to our ancestors are what holds this village together, which holds the people together. That’s what my painting means.” (Ronnie Cachini)

Ronnie Cachini, Ho’n A:wanDehwa:we (Our Land), 2006.

“It’s a really great learning experience to actually visualize these prayers, to put prayer into art and into a literal map. Culturally, it allows us to reconnect to our past.”

—Mallery Quetawki

Mallery Quetawki, Grand Canyon, 2008.

“It’s time to assert that we have the knowledge of place, and challenge the idea of what maps are about,” Jim Enote. The Zuni maps draw deeply on shared experiences of place. They depict petroglyph carvings, images from prayers and songs, colorful stacks of pottery, arroyos and mesas. They are an opportunity for the Zuni to reclaim a deep understanding of a shared cultural tradition, rooted in ancestral lands, told again in a familiar language. The maps are a critical part of constructing a bridge between the worlds of tradition and modernity, connecting the old ways with the new.

“We can do both,” says Jim.

Click to enlarge.

THE ZUNI MAPS remind us that modern, conventional maps convey only one very particular way of being in place, one which often, counterintuitively, leaves us disoriented and disconnected. Conventional maps do not tell us what it means to be somewhere—the details of the landscapes we live in, the sounds of the trees and the birds, the long histories of the arroyos and the mountains, the names of the people who built our homes.

TO DATE, THIRTY-TWO Zuni maps have been made, including two more painted by Ronnie: The Colorado River and Sites of the Grand Canyon. “All the maps have something to do with our prayer,” he says. “That’s our history. Our history just doesn’t start in the Grand Canyon and come straight to Zuni. No, it’s vast.”

Sites of the Grand Canyon is inspired by a boulder that Ronnie and the cultural advisory committee came across on one of their journeys up the Grand Canyon. The boulder is covered in ancient petroglyphs. After looking at it for a long while, Ronnie realized that the boulder itself was a map of the Colorado River, each petroglyph representing a place, a story, or a prayer.

“That’s the map of the river. There’s little side canyons and then there’s a little circle or a square and some even had little dots. And I believe those were highly significant places, or a place name. Those places had names. And then there’s other little petroglyphs, like the images that had the two tails hooked together. They’re jointed like that. At the very end in all the prayers that we have, we have a verse that says ‘Hold on to each other tight. Hold on, never letting go.’ That little petroglyph says to us: never let each other go. It has the tails hooked to each other, signifying that we’re never going to be apart and we’re never going to let go of our traditions. Never letting go of who you are is what it means. That’s the closest way I could say it in English. Never letting each other go. Never letting yourself go, meaning never forgetting who you are, where you came from, here in your heart.

Meet Jim Enote (farmer for 60 consecutive years):

Zuni country

Zuni country…

See more / read more of this on Emergence Magazine and Zuni Map Art Project.


Homelands: How the West Was Won (videos)

Homelands: How the West Was Won (videos)

Homelands: Family Separation Is Nothing New (Vance Blackfox)

Homelands: Family Separation Is Nothing New (Vance Blackfox)