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Spatializing Reparations: Land, Indigeneity, and Mapping

Authors: Danika Cooper*, University of California, Berkeley
Topics: Cartography, Landscape
Keywords: Landscape, Cartography, Reparative Justice
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Reparative justice in the context of Indigenous nations must be centered around land. In doing so, we recognize that to recompense for such histories, reparative compensation must include a transfer of land holdings back to Indigenous peoples (Corlett 2003; Rifkin 2017; Simpson 2017). Systems of private property and natural resource extraction for economic and political gain allowed for and justified the dispossession of lands from Indigenous nations (Saunt 2008). Since then, these systems have been normalized and have gone unquestioned by generations of settler colonialists who continue to benefit financially, socio-culturally, and politically from privileges afforded by land dispossession (Blomley 2003). These benefits have been reinforced and strengthened through dominant modes of visualizing space (Willow 2013). Futures of reparative justice require the mapping of both boundaries of dispossession and proposed boundaries of repossession.

Drawing thus becomes a powerful and foundational tool for making explicit the United States’ liability in the wrongs wrought against Indigenous peoples by spatializing justice for the future. Despite cartography’s role in legitimizing and propagating colonization, in this context, mapping becomes a critical counter-colonial method to actively engage with policy and advocacy. This presentation explores the potentials of drawing and mapping as ways to spatialize calls for land reparations for Indigenous communities. In particular, this research works to show the power and usefulness of visualizations in documenting which lands were dispossessed, how they have changed since then, and what types of new spatial logics are necessary to repatriate the lands back to Indigenous peoples, communities, and nations.

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