“The recovery of the people is tied to recovery of food, since food itself is medicine—not only for the body but also for the soul and the spiritual connection to history, ancestors, and the land.” —Winona LaDuke
This map highlights regions where crops were initially domesticated and evolved over long periods of time, and where the diversity of traditional crop varieties and related wild plants is especially high.
Decolonizing our diets is a process of healing our bodies through reclaiming our indigenous foodways. We must recover our ancestors’ wisdom before it’s gone forever. What foods did they eat? How was food prepared? What herbs and plants did they use for medicine? How did they conduct their ceremonies? Despite colonial suppression, indigenous foodways have survived in the daily acts of resistance that include story telling, recipe sharing, ceremony, and the planting and preserving of heirloom seeds.
The scene of Africans drawing ground maps to the profound surprise of Europeans is a recurring theme of the exploration literature. The German geographer Karl Weule was “overwhelmed” by the number of maps members of his caravan produced during a six-month research expedition through German East Africa in 1906. Between marches, he supplied his carriers with paper and pencils to see what they would draw. This is the map made by a Mambwe man named Sabatele, originally from the southern shore of Lake Tanganyika near the present Tanzania-Zambia border. The map, which traces caravan routes across Tanzania, was made in Lindi at the very beginning of Weule’s expedition. Weule notes that Sabatele’s map was oriented with south at the top, but he turned it around 180 degrees “in order to bring it into agreement with our maps.”
Locations on this map:
1. “Mawopanda,” Dar es Salaam
2. “Lufu,” the Ruvu River, a large river frequently crossed on the main caravan road by Wanyamwezi carriers, one of whom created this map
3. “Mulokolo,” Morogoro, the terminus for the central railway at the time
4. “Mgata,” Makata, plain between the Uluguru and Rubeho mountains, a swamp during the rainy season
5. “Kirosa,” Kilosa
6. “Balabala,” the caravan road
7. “Mwapwa,” Mpwapwa, the old caravan center, once the last stop on the inland march before the great alkali desert, Marenga Mkali, and hostile Ogogo
8. Mutiwe, a stream near Kilimatinde
9. Kilimatinde, a mountain
12. Post of Kalama, in Iramba (Mkalama?)
13a. “Tobola,” Tabora, with the new boma (enclosure/fort)
13b. “Tobola ya zamani,” Old Tabora with the former boma
14. Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika
15. Mwanza on Lake Victoria
In Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland), the Inuit people are known for carving portable maps out of driftwood to be used while navigating coastal waters. These pieces, which are small enough to be carried in a mitten, represent coastlines in a continuous line, up one side of the wood and down the other. The maps are compact, buoyant, and can be read in the dark.
These three wooden maps show the journey from Sermiligaaq to Kangertittivatsiaq, on Greenland’s East Coast. The map to the right shows the islands along the coast, while the map in the middle shows the mainland and is read from one side of the block around to the other. The map to the left shows the peninsula between the Sermiligaaq and Kangertivartikajik fjords.
Source: Topografisk Atlas Grønland
“…it began to come clear to me why so often we do not commemorate the slaughters of indigenous peoples: There are too many sites from too many massacres, and to commemorate them all – even with an action so simple as that of a Catholic who reflexively makes the sign of the cross each time she encounters a cemetery – would afford little time for us to enjoy the comforts and elegancies civilization affords. I would wager every county in the United States has hosted at least one massacre, recorded or forgotten.”
– Derrick Jensen, The Culture of Make Believe
On the left is a line drawing of the Shoshoni Map Rock, delineating and identifying selected features. On the right is a map of the corresponding area. The interpretation is based in part on a letter by from E.T. Perkins Jr. (1897) and on a typescript from J.T. Harrington (n.d.) Features 2-10 are hydrological, 11-14 are conspicuous peaks, 15-18 are watersheds, and 19-23 are animal features. Source: Cartography in the Traditional African, American, Arctic, Australian, and Pacific Societies by David Woodward and G. Malcolm Lewis
This basalt petroglyph in Southwest Idaho, near the banks of the Snake River, is exemplary of indigenous cartography which is derived from and passed down by oral tradition and memory. It has long been interpreted as a map of the upper Snake River country, made by a pre-colonial Shoshoni cartographer. Both the Snake and Salmon Rivers can be observed in the design, alongside images of many animals of the region. Buffalo, deer, mountain sheep, elk, antelope, and human figures are present. The richest hunting area within the Shoshoni homeland was in this northeastern area, where the basins meet the mountains, and the ecological diversity is great.