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Home » Cartography, Cultural Geography, Ethnicity, GeoNotes, North America

Maps of Indigenous North America on First Nations Seeker

Submitted by on April 25, 2012 – 2:49 pm 6 Comments |  
A tremendously useful website, with a wealth of cartographic resources, on the indigenous peoples of North America is Bryan A. Strome’s First Nations Seeker. Strome’s comprehensive list of indigenous groups—called “First Nations” in Canada—is organized linguistically. Strome himself has constructed a detailed map showing all the various groups, and for each particular nation he links to a variety of additional maps and other information sources.

Intriguingly—and appropriately—Strone also includes indigenous groups of northeastern Siberia. Note, on the map detail posted here, the “Sirenikski” people in the far northeastern reaches of the region, also known as the Sirenik or Sireniki Eskimo. The language of this group constituted one of the three branches of the Eskimo family, along with Inuit and Yupik. (The exonyn “Eskimo” is often considered pejorative and hence is increasingly avoided in favor of “Inuit,” but this term does not encompass the entire “Eskimo” linguistic group.) Unfortunately, the Sirenikski language went extinct in 1997. Note also that the largest area occupied by the “Siberian Yupik” people is St. Lawrence Island, which is part of Alaska, not Siberia.

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  • They are interesting maps, but as a historian, I always find myself asking when a given map is supposed to represent (I’m not a big fan of the “ethnographic present”).  Of course, I will leave aside for the moment whether these are “nations” and, if so, whether any of them was “first”–we can consider that a Canadian idiomatic expression.

  • Bryan S

    The map is entitled “First Nations Across North America at the Time of “First Contact”. Thence, the map encompasses a rolling time wave across the continent: 17th century on the east coast, 18th century to the Mississippi River, and 19th century for the remainder.

    • Ah, I hadn’t looked at the northernmost part of the big map.  That makes an interesting kind of sense.  But, over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries, don’t you have populations moving farther and farther west?  Wouldn’t you, for instance, have Miami and Hurons in two different places?  Would the groups along the route of LaSalle or Cabeza de Vaca, for instance, represent an earlier position than those not along their routes?

      • Bryan S

        You are correct in indicating that North America was a very active place. Indeed, there were wars, migrations, tribal splits, disease episodes…all of which influenced tribal locations
        …both before and after first contact. Thence, the map is really just a snapshot of how things were “at the time of first contact”.  If a tribe’s location at two different moments in time were drawn in, then a previous tribe would have to be pencilled out.  Inserting maximum number of tribes is a goal of the map. 

        • That is a rabbit hole I am glad you did not go down.  In any case, it is a wonderfully clear map and, if I ever get to teach American history, I will definitely have classes use it.

          • Thanks to both Bryan Strome and James Wilson for the illuminating discussion of some critical issues in historical mapping.