Include Indian Reservations (Communities, Rancherias, Pueblos) as Places

Hi, iNat forum! :fallen_leaf: I’m new here. Feel free to correct me if/when I’m going about things the wrong way.

I don’t understand why reservations aren’t recognized as places, but they should be. Other political boundaries are recognized. I created one, but I have zero relevant skills for doing that (and the polygon tool is not great, or at least, I need more practice with it). I don’t think it would be hard for iNat to do this. These are already well-defined places (despite some land disputes) and there are fewer than 300 in the U.S. so it wouldn’t be a huge undertaking. It’s fine if the location name defaults to the town(ship), but choosing for the location name to be the rez you’re on should at least be an option. Right now, for the one I created, reservation wasn’t even a category/type of place I could choose. That’s a super quick fix.

This matters because it helps people recognize whose land they’re on, which in turn can make them aware of land use policies/restrictions. It’s also important to increase the visibility of marginalized communities and to respect tribal sovereignty.

If any GIS nerds have advice on how that could be accomplished (or wants to tell me why it’s not as simple as I think it should be), I’m interested to hear about that.

The US Tribal Lands shapefiles are here.

It’s a simple matter to convert them to a KML and upload them to iNat, but due to the total area covered it might require one of the admins to do it.


Thank you! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: That’s awesome. So, it’s not a lot to ask that iNaturalist do this (and make corresponding Place categories). I get that it could be a community-run effort, but I think it’s also fair to give iNat a minute to correct this gross oversight. Thank you for the response & link!


Just to be clear, this already is an option. The text that displays the place name for an observation is open text and users can edit it as they please to any content. Accepting the default spit out when you create the observation is not required. You can even edit it after the record is saved.

Just to be clear, even if added, it will really facilitate searches etc, as unless manually edited the description will always default to what Google Maps chooses.


Just to make sure your request doesn’t get lost here in the Forum, I would suggest also emailing iNat staff directly at with your request, and include a link back to this Forum topic.


This is helpful info! Yeah, I didn’t know the location description is automatically derived from Google Maps. It makes sense - I just didn’t know how it worked. That is good to know.

You are right on about the option to then edit that description to what the user chooses. I love the flexibility to make edits like that (and add Places) - so far, as a new user, I feel like I’m making the most of those options.

The big limitation though, is that currently it can be really difficult to know whether you’re within reservation boundaries, even though you know you might be, because they don’t show up on the map (text shows up, but no boundaries). By contrast, say someone is in a recreation area along a state border - it could be hard to just know at any point along a trail which state you’re in, until you open the map. Then it’s obvious, because the border shows up. So even though users can theoretically change the description to indicate the rez, they shouldn’t have to pull up a separate map to figure out whether that’s accurate. I think it should be built in, and iNat can do that.

If you just snoop around Google Maps in an area with reservations, you’ll see their names appear as text without the boundaries - but if you search for one, the actual boundaries are displayed. By contrast, if you zoom in on a map while exploring in iNat, you also just get the name - if you search for one, you get a rectangle which contains the reservation but does not show boundaries. It’s pretty absurd. I’m not sure if adding them as Places would solve the issue, but there must be a way to make them show up, since the underlying data is already part of Google Maps. They should be visible. I also think when someone zooms in on a patch of earth in explore mode & then clicks on Places of Interest, any reservations should show up under Standard, along with continents, countries, states, counties . . . why wouldn’t they?

Thank you for helping me hash out this idea!


Cool! Thanks for encouraging me to do that. I will request it that way, and I also appreciate the process of thinking/discussing it in community. Especially since I’m new (so don’t know that much about how iNat works) and don’t have any kind of background/experience that would help me grasp how the mapping works other than just as a casual user of maps/GPS, it’s really good to get perspective from others here. It’ll help me develop a better-reasoned request by giving me an understanding of the limitations and possible solutions. Everyone here is very helpful so far :relaxed: Thank you for moderating this forum!


It does that on the website.

I don’t know about the app, as I primarily use the website even when on mobile device. I find the extended capability in the website to be too much to give up, and unless I am wanting to demo the app or make an observation quickly for an ID on the spot, I generally upload in bulk off the camera at home. I think of the app as a trimmed down field observation tool, so I don’t expect it to have everything the website has. One advantage to making your observations in the field is you can directly put on comments etc. I get around that by taking a small whiteboard, writing notes on that, and then photographing it right after the photos of the plant etc and then wipe it clean for the next obs.


Hi! Is this a map of indigenous territory? Because Google is telling me this is an arboretum in New Zealand, with a bunch of northern hemisphere trees. If there’s something else going on here that I don’t recognize, let me know. But if this is an arboretum and not a reservation/reserve, then it’s really not what I’m talking about.

When searching for territories of indigenous nations in the U.S. and Canada, I get a box, not boundaries - on the full site. I don’t know about other parts of the world, because I don’t know of indigenous nations to search for, so that’s a limitation of mine. It would be helpful to round out my knowledge with input from other places. Also, thanks for the opportunity to clarify that I’m talking about the website and not just the app, although I like to use both and would hope the boundaries show up on the app, too.


Thanks for bringing this to our attention! We’ll take a look at the files and figure out a plan. We do unfortunately have a bit of backlog for GIS-related things that need to be done by staff, but maybe we can tackle them together.


That’s awesome, Carrie. Thank you for acknowledging this issue and looking into solutions. I understand things can take time :relaxed: :leaves:


I was referring to this:

I just used the arboretum as an example, because (as you state) reserves are not available places :)

While recognizing and honoring the good intention of this request, I strongly encourage admins to consult with First and Tribal nations and get their input on establishing their reservation boundaries on iNat. Land acknowledgement on a GIS platform requires more than creating a standard place. Using input from the federal government as a proxy for input from individual tribal nations may be expedient but it’s problematic.


@anneclewis as with the original poster, I would recommend contacting the admins directly at with your specific suggestions and concerns on this topic.

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