Whose land is it anyway? Free app focuses on Canada’s Indigenous history

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Instead of telling your users where they are, a new map-based application lets them know where they are before.

Whose Land presents interactive maps that show the proliferation of indigenous communities in North America, in the past and in the present.

A map shows the traditional territories of indigenous communities: the boundaries of their lands before contact with European settlers. Another feature of the areas covered by the treaties with the governments of Canada and the United States. Another points to the locations of the current First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities.
“It gives a good representation of how vast the indigenous nations were,” Mitch Holmes, one of the developers of the application, told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday.

“A lot of people think that there [it was not] that many people here before the contact, when there were tens of millions of people who were here.”

The history of teaching is one of the objectives of the application. Another is to provide users with the information to properly perform land surveys, which have become a regular feature in schools and government events in recent years.

For this purpose, the application includes a series of videos showing indigenous Canadians recognizing their traditional territories. Holmes said that this is one of her favorite parts of her participation in Whose Land, as it involved training indigenous youth on how to create the videos and then sending them back to their home communities to do so.

Holmes and his team took almost a year to investigate the history of all the indigenous communities in North America before they could launch the application. They had to look for old maps and documents, call indigenous friendship centers to have a local perspective and verify everything they learned.

That does not mean that the maps are perfect. Holmes said his team receives comments on a daily basis, some of them positive, and some of people arguing about where the boundaries were drawn. These complaints do not disconcert Holmes, as he wants Whose Land to be as accurate as possible.

“We want to create this fluid, dynamic and constantly changing application that constantly recognizes in what territory we are really,” he said.

Holmes is a project coordinator with TakingITGlobal, an organization focused on getting the world’s young people to solve global problems. TakingITGlobal is one of the three groups behind the application, along with Canadian Roots Exchange and Bold Realities.

The free application was launched in 2018 and is available through the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. It also exists in the form of a website.

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