Facing the Future: Encouraging Critical Cartographic Literacies In Indigenous Communities

  • Jay T. Johnson Department of Anthropology and Geography University of Nebraska at Lincoln
  • Renee Pualani Louis Department of Geography, Univeristy of Hawai’I at Mānoa
  • Albertus Hadi Pramono Department of Geography, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
Keywords: indigenous, mapping initiatives, communities, Western cartography, GIS, critical literacy, system of knowledge, colonial exploits, Paulo Freire, cartographic literacy, critical cartography


As Indigenous academics researching and participating with various mapping initiatives, we have began to perceive that while many Indigenous communities have a long history of using Western cartographic techniques, including GIS, in their efforts to establish land claims, map culturally important sites and protect community resources, they were not critically aware of the science with which they are engaged. We have established our goal to assist and encourage the development of a critical literacy in cartography within Indigenous communities. We use the term literacy not to imply an ability to read and write, rather we are engaging the part of the word’s etymology which recognizes having competence in a system of knowledge. Western cartography is a complex knowledge system with a long history, much of its last 500 years being involved in furthering the colonial exploits of European crowns. Using the work of Paulo Freire (2000) on critical consciousness as a foundation, we have taken this concept a step further to describe a critical cartographic literacy which recognizes that as J. B. Harley states, “[m]aps are never value-free images… [c]artography can be ‘a form of knowledge and a form of power’ (1988).” Our article explores our development of a critical cartographic consciousness in order to aid Indigenous communities in how they engage with one of the most prevalent informational technologies currently in use in many of these communities’ modern cartography/GIS.
How to Cite
Johnson, J., Louis, R., & Pramono, A. (1). Facing the Future: Encouraging Critical Cartographic Literacies In Indigenous Communities. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 4(1), 80-98. Retrieved from https://acme-journal.org/index.php/acme/article/view/729
Special Issue - Critical Cartographies