Origins of Agricultural Crops

Origins and primary regions of diversity of agricultural crops

“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.


East African Ground Maps

Sabatele's Map of the Main Caravan Routes in East Africa

Sabatele’s map of the main caravan routes in East Africa. Paper and pencil. This map with its southerly orientation traces the main caravan routes across Tanzania, with the terminus points placed at Dar es Salaam. Size of the original: unknown. Current location: unknown. Photograph courtesy of the Archiv Museum fur Volkerkunde za Leipzig (Neg. Af 0 1428; from the originial glass plate negative).

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.”

Source: The History of Cartography, Volume 2, Book 3: Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean. Edited by David Woodward and G. Malcolm Lewis ©1998

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
10. Kasanga
11. Kondoa-Irangi
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

Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay Keith Catton 2016

“Thunder Bay” by Keith Catton


Detail of “Thunder Bay”

k.catt anekiwajiw

Detail of “Thunder Bay”

Thank you to Keith Catton for creating this beautiful map of Thunder Bay, Ontario, labelled in Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe). See the artist’s statement below:

The creation of this work originally began as a hand drawn trail map of the “Mountain McKay”; where I grew up. Just as I was about to write in the Mountain’s name with India ink, my hand stopped- I encountered a dilemma in my project. For it was not my intent to propagate place names of Colonial history with my art. Names like McKay (a fur trader) and Loch Lomond (named after a lake in Scotland). Its is important for me to honour my hometown history and the original people of Thunder Bay, the Anishinaabe, while also creating art which inspires critical thought. I was in search of the oldest names that I could find. I spent days riffling through collections of French maps from the 1600’s. “Kaministiqua”; was always present, signifying its importance in fur trade history. It seemed I had hit a wall at that early point, just like my ink, the trail ran dry.

I began searching through books and reading local history. Eventually I happened upon a research paper that a famous local librarian wrote and published in 1921, later reprinted in the collection Life in a Thundering Bay (2007). It just happens the library I frequented during my childhood was named after her. Mary J. L. Black, of The Thunder Bay Historical Society, published Place Names in the Vicinity of Fort William (1921). Black was equally inquisitive about local History as she had interviewed a number of individuals on the place names including translations and stories. The Ojibway language was of the oral tradition and thus numerous names and spellings existed for each location. Around that time a friend at Waverly Library showed me an Ojibway Dictionary from the 1800s by Frederic Baraga, which I then used to cross reference Ms. Black’s paper. I followed a pattern using the oldest names but the contemporary spelling for Anemki. The original names either described the landscape or described a spiritual belief attached to the location. For example, the choice of using “Thunder Point” over “Thunder Cape”, for when consulting the map the landform points toward Thunder Mountain. This was one of the great revelations I had during my research.

The art was drawn with calligraphy pens and ink. The prints are then created by silkscreen and each print completed with hand water-coloring. The visual style is reminiscent of the past, a conceptual decision meant to in a sense amend time. I present this map not as the singular description. But as a medium to hopefully spark further conversation and curiosity in the community consciousness.

Keith Catton


Anemki Wikwed ~ Thunder Bay, Bay of Thunder
Animosaigaigun ~ Dog Lake
Animiki Neiashi ~ Thunder Point
Kakabeka ~ “high cliff falls”
Kaministiquia ~ “river that winds”
Kasasagadadjiqegamishkag ~ “the high lake that is always overflowing”
Anemki Wajiw ~ Thunder Mountain
Kitchi Gami ~ Great Water, Great Lake


Inuit Cartography


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

Pine Ridge in Lakota (No. 2)


Wazí Aháŋhaŋ Oyáŋke (The Pine Ridge Reservation) in Lakȟótiyapi (Lakota).
Map by Jordan Engel

Lakota place name – English place name (Translation)
Bló Wakpála – Potato Creek (Potato Creek)
Čaŋkpé Opí – Wounded Knee (Wounded Knee)
Čaŋkpé Opí Wakpála – Wounded Knee Creek (Wounded Knee Creek)
Čhaŋnúŋpa Sápa Wakpála – Black Pipe Creek (Black Pipe Creek)
Čhasmú Makȟóčhe – The Sand Hills (Sand Country)
Hokhíyoȟloka Wakpála – Pass Creek
Íŋyaŋ Šála – Batesland (Red Stone)
Makȟásaŋ – Whiteclay (Whiteish or Yellowish Clay)
Makȟásaŋ Wakpála – Whiteclay Creek (Whiteish or Yellowish Clay Creek)
Makhízita Čík’ala – Little White River
Makhízita Wakpá – White River
Makȟóšiča – The Badlands (Bad Land)
Makȟóšiča Otȟúŋwahe – Interior (Bad Land Village)
Matȟó Wakpála – Bear-In-The-Lodge Creek (Bear Creek)
Oglála – Oglala (To Scatter One’s Own)
Ógle Šá – Red Shirt (Red Shirt) (Also known as Ógle Lúta)
Oyúȟpe – Manderson (The name of a band of the Oglala)
Pahá Zípela – Slim Butte (Thin Butte)
Pažóla Otȟúŋwahe – Martin (Knoll City)
Pȟahíŋ Pahá – Porcupine Butte (Porcupine Butte)
Pȟahíŋ Siŋté – Porcupine (Young Porcupine)
Pȟahíŋ Siŋté Wakpála – Porcupine Creek (Young Porcupine Creek)
Phežúta Ȟaká – Kyle (Branched Medicine)
Phežúta Ȟaká Wakpála – Medicine Root Creek (Branched Medicine Creek)
Wagmíza Wakpála – Allen (Corn Creek)
Wakpá Wašté – Cheyenne River (Good River)
Waŋblí Hoȟpi – Wanblee (Eagle Nest)
Waŋblí Hoȟpi Pahá – Eagle Butte (Eagle Nest Butte)
Waŋblí Hoȟpi Wakpála – Eagle Nest Creek (Eagle Nest Creek)
Wazí Aháŋhaŋ Oyáŋke – The Pine Ridge Reservation
Wazíbló – Pine Ridge

Imperiled Species in the US


Species of Conservation Concern in the Continental US – Source: NatureServe

This great data about federally listed or imperiled plant and animal species comes from NatureServe. Their interactive maps lists each at-risk species in every county and every watershed in the United States.

Check out the interactive maps at