The below map of Linguistic Groups has been making the social media rounds. When I saw it on Facebook it had the title “1491” – which I suppose means this is what North America looked like before Columbus showed up. Yet, the map has no date, and very specifically refers to linguistic groups, not tribes. The link below goes to a Tumblr version with an entertaining review:
this map is awful. it’s so fucking inaccurate and offensive.
when will cartographers (and map-readers) learn to be fucking accountable tho. like it’s just irresponsible and essentially automatically shoddy work to try to map all tribal territories in N. America on the same map, because at that scale, it’s physically impossible to represent everyone. a few months ago I was hired to make maps of historical changes in indigenous territories in eastern Guatemala (a relatively small area), and ended up having to draw maps that were 1” to 20km, and even then, it was still a logistical challenge. lol this map doesn’t even have a date on it, much less sources…again: as someone who makes a living mapping stuff like this, I can tell you: it took over 6 months to dig through archives and indigenous records just to find adequate and reliable information for less than half of Guatemala, a tiny tiny fraction of N. America.
there’s a lot at stake in mapping indigenous territories and cultural/linguistic areas, and unfortunately, usually those with the power and authority to map things like that are (a) not indigenous (b) not invested in indigenous communities (c) not knowledgeable enough on indigenous cultures and complexity therein to draw an adequate representation.
FELLOW CARTOGRAPHERS AND ACADEMICS: STOP FUCKING EVERYTHING UP AND HOLD YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE POWER AND RESPONSIBILITY IN DRAWING MAPS
I thought it might be interesting to check out other variations on this topic. Here are two from Wikipedia which are much more detailed:
This one seems to combine tribe locations with language families, which makes sense, but is very simplified.
the National Geographic wins for overall aesthetics, while also including Latin American cultures (click to see zoomable version).
The Atlas of Extinct Nations has a small discussion of the uncertainties of creating these maps, and also included this cool animated gif timemap of the loss of Native American Lands:
An addictive collection of beautiful charts, graphs, maps, and interactive data visualization toys -- on topics from around the world.