On the Map: Colonial Adoption of Indigenous Toponomies

Shane Doddridge, Tŝilhqot’in National Government

Maps are commonly in error due to outdated or poor quality data, and most drivers who blindly rely on their vehicle’s GPS will know this well, but it is rare to hear of when maps are so in error as to outright exclude communities of several hundred people.

On the Map Colonial Adoption of Indigenous ToponomiesThis has been a reality for six First Nation communities in British Columbia’s Chilcotin region for decades. British Columbia’s gazetted names database has never included these communities which is why Google Maps, not to mention most other published maps, have passed them by. Neighbouring colonial localities of lesser note, however, often with fewer services and no central cluster of homes, are considered major landmarks in the Chilcotin and are on most maps of the region.

This is of particular concern in emergency situations where responders are often unclear of their destinations, but more than that, it is simply a gross misrepresentation of the human geography in the Chilcotin. Together these six communities form the Tŝilhqot’in National Government – a tribal council now known worldwide for their victory at the Supreme Court of Canada in 2014 where Aboriginal land title was acknowledged to exist, unextinguished, for the first time.

In the wake of that decision, the Province of British Columbia and the Tŝilhqot’in Nation signed the Nenqay Deni Accord, a document outlining a shared vision with immediate and ongoing steps to achieve that vision in the spirit of lasting reconciliation. The recognition of Tŝilhqot’in place names, beginning with the names of the six major Tŝilhqot’in communities, was outlined in that document as being an important step towards that lasting reconciliation.

The six Tŝilhqot’in community names were adopted into the official gazetteer by the Province of British Columbia on May 3rd 2019, and are now, quite literally, “on the map.”

This presentation explores that story.

On the Map: Colonial Adoption of Indigenous Toponomies