Indigenous

First People’s Map brings Indigenous cultural heritage and language revitalization to your browser

Map indicates territories and communities, but also artists, languages, organizations, events and more

By Emily Fagan
June 25, 2021
Indigenous

First People’s Map brings Indigenous cultural heritage and language revitalization to your browser

Map indicates territories and communities, but also artists, languages, organizations, events and more

By Emily Fagan
Jun 25, 2021
Photo: FPCC / Submitted
Indigenous

First People’s Map brings Indigenous cultural heritage and language revitalization to your browser

Map indicates territories and communities, but also artists, languages, organizations, events and more

By Emily Fagan
June 25, 2021
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First People’s Map brings Indigenous cultural heritage and language revitalization to your browser
Photo: FPCC / Submitted

This story is part of The Good Newsletter, Capital Daily’s weekly spotlight on uplifting stories and community resources. Subscribe today to receive good news in your inbox every Friday.

Looking down on British Columbia from a birds-eye-view, you can see veins of rivers twisting towards the coast. Mountains look like frost-tipped fractals from high enough above, and the Saanich Peninsula is the sole urbanized boot of Vancouver Island. 

But the bigger picture, and the deeper history, of the Indigenous people who first formed relationships with and shaped this land hasn’t always been so easy for all to see—until now.

The online First Peoples’ Map, created by the First Peoples’ Cultural Council, depicts interactive information on languages, cultural heritage, and art from each of the 204 First Nations communities and language regions in British Columbia. It’s the most intuitively designed and in-depth project of its kind, building off previous arts and language maps created by the FPCC to educate on and revitalize Indigenous cultures. 

“I don't think there's another map that's providing content in quite the same way,” said Cathi Charles Wherry, an Elder and special advisor to the FPCC. “It's really from the communities, sharing what they want to share.”

The colourful and often overlapping territories shown on the map convey the fluid and overlapping nature of some communities, according to Suzanne Gessner, the FPCC’s research and development linguist.

“I think it's a great education piece for Indigenous people to learn more about their own communities or other communities, but also for non-Indigenous folks in BC to look at the territory where they're located and learn more about the Indigenous peoples and their language, arts, and heritage there,” she said.

Within the territories, the map indicates each of the local Indigenous communities, public art, artists, grants, events, organizations, and points of interest like PKOLS (also known as Mount Doug). Statistics of those who fluently speak each language, along with those who somewhat speak them or are learning, are provided based on the FPCC’s latest Report on the status of BC First Nations Languages. Speakers of the languages provided clips of themselves saying local greetings, along with the names of the languages and traditional landmarks.

There are many hidden gems to be found by exploring deeper into the map—such as the music video by award-winning songwriter Lola Parks, for her song “All This Time” set to a video of her skydiving

This project has been in the works for more than a year, and comes at the request of Indigenous communities across the province.

“[The map] was very much a team effort with the staff, developers, and then as always, the communities that we serve,” Charles Wherry said.

For a long time, she said, this has been a passion project made possible by a $50 million investment by the province in 2018, along with the support of the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation

But the map is far from complete; with the community encouraged to submit their additions, its creators expect it to be a living document for years to come.. Over the next few months, Gessner says that recordings from oral history projects will be uploaded to the map. 

No matter how far they are from their home territories, Indigenous people across the province can now hear greetings from those in their home territories.


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Looking forward, Gessner hopes this map will be a starting point for Indigenous people learning their traditional languages—which she finds inspiring, knowing this is not an easy feat. Built into the map are resources for learning the languages, including games. 

“We know that nearly 60% of Indigenous people in BC live off reserves, so there's a big urban population who might not have access to programs,” she said. “This is just one more resource... hopefully it'll be a starting point for people to learn more.”

The FPCC also offers a language immersion program for Indigenous people to partner with mentors fluent in traditional languages. 

This project’s success, Charles Wherry says, is a testament to the generations of people who have worked within communities to bring this cultural revitalization to the forefront.

“People are really committed to linguistic, artistic and cultural survival—and beyond survival,” she said. “We are a thriving people that are going to keep getting stronger and stronger.”

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