Indigenous Cartography and Representational Politics Conference

by Bjørn Sletto

Indigenous Mapping Network members recently attended an international conference on indigenous cartographies and representational politics at Cornell University. The intent of the conference, which was held March 2-5, 2006, was to initiate a critical dialogue between different groups involved with indigenous cartographies: scholars (both native and non-native, and from different disciplines), practitioners (GIS professionals and cartographers), and indigenous elders. The members who participated (Josh Arnold, Renee Louis, MC Baldwin, Paul A. Beyal, Laura Harjo, and Lea Shanley) made important contributions to the debate from multiple perspectives as elders, activists, GIS experts and theorists.  The discussions touched on central, critical and theoretical issues surrounding indigenous cartographies, such as tensions between indigenous knowledge and scientific knowledge, and social changes in communities resulting from mapping projects. Participants now maintain contact via a listserve and are preparing an edited book and an edited issue of the journal Cultural Geographies based on papers and ideas presented at the conference.

The conference was co-sponsored by 20 Cornell departments and programs and presented under the auspices of the Cornell University Society for the Humanities at the A.D. White House.  Twenty graduate and undergraduate student volunteers assisted in the planning and execution of the event, and 10 native and non-native professors, both at Cornell and elsewhere, served on an advisory panel and assisted with the scholarly aspects of the conference.  In all, 30 speakers from the United States, Mexico, Nicaragua, Taiwan and Canada presented papers and spoke in roundtables.  About 100 people attended the three-day event, with attendance fairly evenly divided between students and faculty from Cornell and from Syracuse University.

For more information see the conference website or contact Bjørn Sletto, conference chair and organizer: