What Would It Look Like to Decolonize Cartography? A Volunteer Group Has Ideas
European colonizers first imposed borders on the Americas by drafting maps. Arbitrary lines, written to justify genocide, became symbols of private prosperity in the so-called “New World.” Indigenous cultures were supplanted by the Western canon, which developed an alternative history of the lands to vindicate itself. Settler colonialism continues to inflect mainstream media, rationalizing housing segregation and police violence as byproducts of law and order. One volunteer group is working against this narrative, decolonizing cartography in an effort to envision the world before and after capitalist exploitation.
Since 2014, the #Decolonial_Atlas has restored Indigenous maps of the US and Canada in Native languages; questioned how Africa and Asia might look without borders; and charted environmental impacts of global pollution, deforestation, and warfare. Its founder, Jordan Engel, first started the project to conceive a full map of Turtle Island. It has since grown into a virtual collaboration with Indigenous tribes and First Nations to accomplish this goal.