The risks and benefits of mapping indigenous lands

Shonil Bhagwat

DSCN5845

Sacred sites: A Pagan stone monument in the foreground and an Anglican church in the background at Avebury, United Kingdom.

Just over two weeks ago on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (9th August), Google caused a controversy by inviting indigenous peoples around the world to map their local geographic features on Google maps. In the United States of America, some welcomed this step while others decried it. So why did Google’s invitation divide opinion? In the United States, many tribal communities lack accurate maps for their land and therefore the National Congress of American Indians welcomed such mapping in the hope that the maps will be of huge help to the communities. Others thought that such mapping violates indigenous peoples’ spaces by divulging sensitive information and by exposing indigenous lands to exploitation. For example, Google Earth, which shows archived photos of most places around the world, has images of sites that are sacred to some indigenous peoples. Members of some tribes…

View original post 354 more words

Advertisements