August 11, 2020
The Native Lands App Tells You What Indigenous Land You’re Standing On
For a few years I worked as a professional archaeologist. You’d think that means I’d have a pretty good grasp of California pre-history. And, well, I do, but only the places I dug. The rest of the state—not so much. But it’s inescapably fascinating to wonder about what was happening where I live many hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of years before I was here.
So I’m obsessed with the Native Land app and website. Enter your zip code, or town, and it can tell you the approximate Indigenous territory you’re standing in, what languages were spoken, even a brief bit about treaties signed.
For example, I live in Fairfax, California, a small town north of San Francisco in Marin County. Turns out, this was Coastal Miwok land, which I knew, but under the control of the Graton Rancheria, a smaller, federated tribe within Miwok territory. Very, very cool.
The app covers all of North America, all of Australia and New Zealand, part of South America, and a few zones in Scandinavia.
Native Land is a Canadian site, Indigenous created and operated. It is constantly growing and updating, and also verifying map source data to be sure it’s as accurate as possible. Some of the Indigenous areas have robust histories accessible via link clicks, though many don’t. No matter, it’s a small thing to research the background of your area on your own once you’ve seen which tribe once occupied the land.
Download it and you can’t help but plug in a new zip code anytime you’re driving around and cross into a new area. A flash of historical insight that deepens your understanding of place.
Looking to learn more about the early peoples on the North American continent? AJ readers recommend 1491 and Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks