The mapping of indigenous lands to secure tenure, manage natural resources, and strengthen cultures is a recent phenomenon, having begun in Canada and Alaska in the 1960s and in other regions during the last decade and a half. A variety of methodologies have made their appearance, ranging from highly participatory approaches involving village sketch maps to more technical efforts with geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing. In general, indigenous mapping has shown itself to be a powerful tool and it has spread rapidly throughout the world. The distribution of mapping projects is uneven, as opportunities are scarce in many parts of the world. This review covers the genesis and evolution of indigenous mapping, the different methodologies and their objectives, the development of indigenous atlases and guidebooks for mapping indigenous lands, and the often uneasy mix of participatory community approaches with technology. This last topic is at the center of considerable discussion as spatial technologies are becoming more available and are increasingly used in rural areas. The growth of GIS laboratories among tribes in the United States and Canada, who frequently have both financial and technical support, is in sharp contrast to groups in the South—primarily Africa, Asia, and Latin America—where resources are in short supply and permanent GIS facilities are rare.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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