Maps tell stories, and control of the printing press allowed colonial powers to tell their own stories for centuries. A Native American tribe that was literally taken off the map in California’s history books — and is still unrecognized by the U.S. government — is using technology to put itself back on the map.
On June 11 and 12, Eli Moore and Catalina Garzon of the Pacific Institute and Miho Kim of the Data Center led a mapping workshop with the Winnemem Wintu tribe to continue a long process of documenting sacred sites in the Winnemem’s traditional cultural territory. On Saturday, mapping terminology and GPS skills were mastered in the Winnemem village near Redding, and on Sunday a dozen young people practiced their new skills while visiting four sacred sites along the McCloud River. We filmed the workshop to include as a scene in our Losing Sacred Ground documentary series.
All over the world, indigenous communities are incorporating mapping into their communication and outreach strategies, as they craft the stories they want to tell to the outside world about their struggles to protect land, culture, language and sacred sites. Mapping now figures into five of our eight stories: in Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, Russia’s Altai Republic, the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, and in Northern California.
As Winnemem leader Caleen Sisk-Franco says, “We need to create evidence to convince the Forest Service that this is a historic cultural district containing a network of sacred sites that all work together. Different places teach us different things and have different purposes. But we need them all.”
Sacred Land Film Project (SLFP)’s mission is to create and distribute media and educational materials to deepen public understanding of sacred sites, indigenous cultures and environmental justice. A sponsored project of Earth Island Institute in Berkeley, California since 1984, SLFP is a 501(c)3 non-profit funded entirely through grants and individual donations. If you enjoy this clip, please consider making a donation to SLFP. Your contribution will make it possible for us to complete our newest documentary series, Standing on Sacred Ground, which will bring the stories of these indigenous communities to a national television audience.