Displaying indigenous lands and land history on iNat

Redrawing the maps back thru history would be a substantial research project. Archives. Oral history.

We can attempt to record names of species in all the available and relevant languages. That would be searchable and useful.

I was reading about ‘beating the bounds of the parish’ The children were taught in meticulous detail, this tree, that boulder, cross the stream. As adults they knew precisely where the boundary was.

And that’s only up to 1066!

I’ve been trying to understand this discussion from an English perspective. It’s interesting but, as you say, very complex, and without mass DNA screening it’s impossible to determine which of us has ancestry from which group. And I find it hard to see how it’s relevant to iNaturalist data at the observation level.

If I wanted to document, for example, the biodiversity of a village that was forcibly “deserted” to make way for sheep farming, I would create a place and a collection project for it. But unless there were detailed historical records of biodiversity and genealogy it wouldn’t be very useful.

I understand of course that this may be trivial when compared with the scale of injustice and oppression faced by whole indigenous/aboriginal peoples in colonised countries, but it’s the closest analogy I can relate to, and I’m struggling to see how it’s relevant to iNaturalist as a repository of observation data where location is simply an intersection of latitude and longitude (although that in itself is not a culturally neutral construct).

3 Likes

In conversations we’ve had with some tribes in California about using iNaturalist, I know some things they’re interested in to help foster more use of iNaturalist in their communities are working to get species common names in their languages (which some are already doing), and figuring out a way to automatically obscure culturally important species observed on their lands.

12 Likes

But a data repository is iNat’s secondary purpose.
It’s primary purpose is to engage people with nature, and from that perspective acknowledging that a culture’s lands exist as an official iNat “place” that projects can be attached to (or just as symbolic acknowledgement that other cultures’ names and definitions for lands still exist) is a valid goal.

3 Likes

What would be the point? Geographical location of species is in no way dependent on current or traditional “owners” of the land in question. How does displaying or even collecting this information add anything to the biological science that iNaturalist (I hope) exists to collect?

2 Likes

… which is not a good thing. Quality of data, you know science, is what matters. Plants grow and insects flutter where they find the habitat they need and not in any way moderated by who happens to live on the land. Ethnicity is a totally different set of facts and irrelevant (not less important, but irrelevant) when we are talking about biosciences.

1 Like

There are other repositories for data that have more rigor in the data collection, the submissions, and in who can submit.

iNat was not created for that purpose.
That doesn’t make it a valueless purpose.

5 Likes

It does depend on the previous usage of land.

1 Like

What do surviving Native people say? And might this have an unintended adverse effect – I am thinking of the tendency of curious white folk to want to visit Native communities, but not necessarily in a culturally appropriate way. Would it lead, for example, to more trespassing on Native lands?

2 Likes

That is the important question. :)

It definitely could, but it also already has negative effects to not acknowledge them as well, - see the #MirandaMustGo movement, and how people visiting Hanging Rock as a mystery/horror site allows them to ignore both its traditional meaning to indigenous populations and how the popular fictional narrative ascribed to the place by the book and film eclipses the history of aboriginal peoples at that location.

3 Likes

This was something that I had wondered about as well. A way that projects might help circumvent the problem would be:

  1. iNaturalist contacts a representative from the indigenous group and notifies them of the project.
  2. iNaturalist informs the representative of how the project can be used to see where observations are being made, leading to tracking of land visitation.
  3. iNaturalist works with a representative to create a policy for obscuring observations within indigenous lands if needed/requested.
  4. Auto-subscribing users to the project and adding the project name and icon to the observation page indicates land history to the observer (and page viewers).

Based on the view of the community, information from (2) could be used to ask iNaturalist to obscure locations for protective reasons as in (3) (culturally significant species, nesting/spawning sites, etc.) or it could also indicate a potential for visitor engagement through activities like guided tours, bio-blitzes, or requesting/setting aside funding for projects like observation decks that allow observation without destruction of the surrounding habitat.

Of course, each community will have different views on this so offering multiple options to explore would likely be helpful.

2 Likes

I believe that iNaturalist community overall is more thinking and I hope people will be responsible. It’s hard for me to talk about different regions, our native people are very few now, many communities have less than 100 people, while the native land they had is gigantic and I see probable pluses in people visiting more places than their usual home-work-dacha routine, probably they would understand something or would like to make a donation for restoration of architecture monuments (which is really needed).

4 Likes

Did anyone resolve what period in history that Eric is asking to make such a map? Both people groups and “boundaries” changed over time, even before European colonization. As noted above iNat uses lattitude and logitude. The boundaries of countries, counties, etc seem to be pulled from standardized databases and not developed by iNat.

1 Like

although there’s still a little bit of murkiness in this definition, he seemed to be looking specifically for:

since that original thought, the thread has seemed to broaden a bit. now, besides talking about just historical boundaries, folks have started to also talk about modern day boundaries, and i don’t think it’s a distinction that everyone is making. personally, i think the idea of including modern-day boundaries would be much less controversial and would require much less work accomplish in a way that i think could largely satisfy relevant stakeholders.

2 Likes

It would be a dauntingly challenging task to take on regions at the time of European contact. In the Bay Area alone (San Francisco Bay Area) I understand there 20 to 50 distinct tribes, with distinct languages or dialects. Each was an independent tribe. The tribes did not consider themselves as any kind of federation, though they had trading relationships. In modern times, we tend to refer to all of them as Ohlone, but that’s not what they were known to call themselves (Muwekma, Mutsen, Partacsi, Tamien to name just few). I believe I read that De Anza Expedition, the first European explorers in the area, were amazed to find that the tribes encountered spoke a different language about every days march they travelled.

3 Likes

In conversations we’ve had with some tribes in California about using iNaturalist, I know some things they’re interested in to help foster more use of iNaturalist in their communities are working to get species common names in their languages (which some are already doing), and figuring out a way to automatically obscure culturally important species observed on their lands.

I would love to hear more about this, and to think more about how to do it outside CA.

3 Likes

Yes, me too!

1 Like

It’s primarily through our Snapshot Cal Coast initiative - to gather biodiversity observations along the entire California Coast. California has a network of state Marine Protected Areas (~120 in total) and MPA collaboratives in each coastal county who are stakeholders in those MPAs - organizations who do education/outreach, stewardship, research, and/or enforcement - including tribes. In reaching out to the collaboratives, we offered to come do in-person iNat trainings for the orgs interested in holding events or participating in Snapshot. So we’ve had a chance to talk to a few tribes about iNat. In California, the Wishtoyo are probably the most active on iNat - they’ve added common names for many southern CA species in Tongva, and host quite a few projects as well.

8 Likes