Google Maps honors indigenous lands in Canada on National Aboriginal Day

We say that history is written by the victors, but less acknowledged, perhaps, is that maps are also drawn from a rather one-dimensional perspective. But now, Google is attempting to present a more even-handed view of the world. In the culmination of a seven-year collaboration between indigenous communities across Canada and Google Earth Outreach, indigenous lands in the northern nation have been added to both Google Maps and Google Earth. The search giant called it “an essential step in accurately reflecting Canada to Canadians and to the world.”

For the last three years, Google Canada has been hosting mapping workshops with a number of indigenous communities throughout Canada. In these workshops, Google employees were asked time and time again why indigenous lands were not included in their presentations. That will no longer be the case.

Google, which often makes updates to its Maps app to more accurately reflect the world around us, is now taking history into consideration in this latest improvement. Both reserves and settlement lands in Canada have been added to Google platforms. As Steven DeRoy, an Anishinaabe cartographer and director of The Firelight Group, told Google, “Indigenous peoples are often underrepresented on Canadian base maps, and this was made apparent during our annual Indigenous Mapping Workshops. We are thrilled to see Google recognize indigenous peoples by integrating indigenous lands as an important fabric of Google’s base maps.”

Thus far, more than 3,000 indigenous lands have been added to Google Maps and Google Earth. Other indigenous communities have also been invited to add their lands to Maps or update information (like roads, addresses, or businesses) — in order to do so, their governments need only to contribute data via the Base Map Partner Program. Individual community members also have the capacity to use the Send Feedback tool to add and edit essential information on Google Maps.

With 4.3 percent of Canadians identifying as Aboriginal, it certainly seems high time for Google Canada to recognize this population in such a momentous way. Now, on National Aboriginal Day, indigenous Canadians are being honored in this important way.