“Participatory mapping has allowed indigenous groups to produce and to varying degrees distribute counter-representations of indigenous landscapes, including boundaries that delineate ‘their’ lands from those of the state and other indigenous groups.” (p. 253) Increasingly indigenous peoples are utilizing cartography and Geographic Information Systems to assert their claims to land, to seek “more equal participation in the management of indigenous lands, and to press for state and international recognition of their cultural exceptionality.” (p. 253) Countermaps by indigenous people, however, are not a simple attempt to reconfigure formal political boundaries, but instead a “complex cultural productions informed by contested processes of place-making and by tensions regarding the meanings of authenticity among indigenous actors.” (p. 253)
The map above is the product of a mapping project to delimit Pemon lands in Venezuela. For the purpose of boundary-making for territorial demarcation, the existence of “traditional boundaries between villages needed to be obscured.” (p. 269) Their argument was that “indigenous people don’t have any boundaries,” and therefore a borderless landscape was portrayed to better integrate the different lands inhabited for generations by Pemon.
With this map, the “rebordering process and negotiations for land rights continue. The work of the government commission assigned the responsibility for demarcating indigenous lands has been stymied by procedural conflicts, and the requirements for adequate documentation of indigenous occupancy of traditional lands have been tightened. In January 2007, a new Ministerio de los Pueblos Indígenas was established and is now overseeing the demarcation process, but as of date, no land titles have been secured by Pemon leaders.” (p. 271)
Geographic Information Systems therefore provide a great tool to indigenous activists by revealing the less visible boundaries that often facilitating state control in indigenous lands, and thus helping activists in their struggle for indigenous land rights.
Source: Sletto, B. (2009). Indigenous people don't have boundaries': reborderings, fire management, and productions of authenticities in indigenous landscapes.cultural geographies, 16(2), 253-277.
I have acted with honesty and integrity in producing this work and am unaware of anyone who has not. –Ilka Vega