Archival Maps, HGIS and Indigenous Landscapes

Daniel Rueck, Department of History & Classical Studies, McGill University

What can be learned about Indigenous land practices from maps and survey data produced by government departments and officials who were determined to eliminate those practices? This paper presents my HGIS research on Indigenous environmental history on the Prairies and in the Montreal area. First, I discuss the maps, data, and diaries of land surveyor Otto Julius Klotz (Dominion Land Survey), and my HGIS analysis which reveals elements of the pre-railroad Prairies as well as the process by which Indigenous pe
oples were dispossessed and the land radically transformed. Second, I present my HGIS work on the work of William McLea Walbank (Dept. of Indian Affairs) in Kahnawake (a Mohawk territory near Montreal), where he attempted a radical land redistribution in the 1880s. I will also discuss some of the theoretical and practical problems associated with the use of HGIS for historical research on/with Indigenous peoples.