Indigenous lands in Canada added to Google Maps an ‘essential’ step in reconciliation

Google Maps Indigenous landsGoogle Canada has unveiled a new project that lets users look up 3,000 indigenous reserves and settlements on Google Maps. (Google Earth)

More than 3,000 Indigenous communities in Canada have been added to Google Maps and Google Earth.

The search engine giant said the launch – which coincides with National Aboriginal Day in Canada – is the culmination of a seven-year collaboration between Indigenous communities in Canada, mapping experts and Google Canada to compile coordinates and mapping information for Indigenous reserves and settlement lands.

Tara Rush, who is from Akwesasne territory and works at Google Canada, said in a blog post that the launch marks “an essential step in accurately reflecting Canada to Canadians and to the world.”

With more than 1.4 million people who self-identify as First Nations, Metis or Inuit in Canada, many Indigenous people say it’s about time.

Steven DeRoy, an Indigenous cartographer, and member of the Ebb and Flow First Nation in Manitoba who played a key role in the initiative says the “impetus for the project was to make sure that Indigenous peoples are reflected on the base maps.”

During project development, DeRoy told CTV News on Wednesday he worked with a team that hosted mapping workshops to train Indigenous peoples on how to use maps. Naturally, he said, the first thing they would do is search for their homes.

“When they would search for their homes, the map would show up blank,” DeRoy explained.

He acknowledged that mapping can be political, saying the project is “one step” toward reconciliation.

“Maps play an important role, they’re a tool of power and to actually see the land on the maps … it starts a dialogue between Canada, companies that are working in those areas and Indigenous peoples.”

But the map is not all-inclusive, Google representatives said, as there are 600 bands living on 3,100 reserves and urban centres across the country.

If Indigenous communities do not see themselves represented or want to update information about their lands – such as roads, addresses or businesses, their government can contribute data on the Base Map Partner Program.


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