Map Monday: indigenous history around the world, pre- and post-colonization

Today is the last day of May, the day before the beginning of June, which is National Indigenous History Month in Canada.  There can be no more chilling reminder of why Canada needs to have a National Indigenous History Month than what transpired in British Columbia this past week, when the remains of at least 215 children were unearthed at the site of a former Residential School.

For those of you who aren’t aware of this shameful history, the Canadian government ran Residential Schools for indigenous children from 1863 to – get this – 1998.  At least 150,000 children were forcibly taken from their homes and sent to schools far away from their families, mostly run by church authorities.  The stated objective was to “take the Indian out of the child” by removing anything related to their homes and culture, including language, instilling the Church into them, and giving them some basic education.

The reality was that the children were in many instances kept in substandard conditions, without their traditions, their familiar food, or the love of their family and community.  They were beaten and abused (including by nuns and priests), exposed to diseases like TB, from which they died at frightening rates, and often died of hypothermia when they tried to run away and get back home.  The families were rarely ever even told what happened to their children. And we wonder why there is so much dysfunction in many indigenous communities or why so many indigenous people in Canada don’t trust authority.

[The tragic reality is that similar stories of how indigenous peoples have been and/or are being treated can be found repeated around the world.  Similar stories of residential schools can be found in Australia and the United States.  And one might well ask the Uyghurs if this sounds awfully familiar to their current treatment in today’s context.]

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established in Canada in 2008, to uncover the full extent of mistreatment of indigenous peoples as a result of the devastating impact of Residential Schools on their families, their communities, and their very souls.  It also investigated other government policies programs targeting indigenous peoples that have further harmed their lives in many ways, such as forcing them off their lands and into poorly equipped remote towns, etc.

The TRC produced a final report with many recommendations in 2015.  Our country is slowly but surely working its way through them.  It is a long process of undoing centuries of injustices and discrimination, but we will remain hopeful that this process will ultimately bring peace and dignity back to indigenous peoples in Canada.  This has been their ancestors’ land for many millennia, the rest of us – the “settlers” – have so much to learn about the stewardship of this land from indigenous peoples.

To start off National Indigenous History Month one day early, today’s Map Monday will concentrate on maps of indigenous settlements and civilizations throughout history.  In each Monday in June, Map Monday will be replaced by posts relevant to Indigenous History Month.  More maps will be back in July!

The first map shows the distribution of indigenous peoples throughout the world today.  It will surprise many westerners to learn that the vast majority of the world’s indigenous peoples live in Asia and SE Asia, although you will be familiar with the more common term, “ethnic minority”.  As the source of this map makes clear (World Bank), indigenous peoples across the globe endure exclusion and poverty.


The next map is a screen shot of an ambitious interactive map available at Native Land.  It is updated as new or improved information is recorded. It’s worth taking a look (just click and try it out).


This map shows the migration routes from Asia to the Americas that populated those continents nearly 15,000 years ago. It also includes a hypothesized Solturean Route from Europe more than 20,000 years ago.  More information on this hypothesis can be found at the map’s source, Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island.

Map Smithsonian.v3.1


This map shows the peoples, cultures, and economic activity of North America prior to the arrival of Columbus et al.  One sad detail: the Beothuks of Newfoundland (far righthand side in Canada) were wiped out – made extinct as a race – by the encroachment, slaughter and imported diseases of the European colonizers, against which they had no resistance.  The last surviving Beothuk, (Nancy) Shanawdithit, died of TB in 1829.

The next three maps show the changes perpetrated on Native American in what became the United States once the colonists arrived.  These maps show the decreases land but not in population, which was due to disease but mostly to massacres, as well as starvation thanks to a government policy of killing all the buffalo for that very purpose.




This map shows the distribution of indigenous peoples are a percentage of the overall population throughout North America.


This map shows the same area in more detail.  You can click on the map to see considerably more detail.


And finally, a map of where all the Residential Schools in Canada were located.  This is another interactive map, and if you click on the image you can check out its interactive nature.


I am hopeful that the posts I share during Indigenous History Month over the next 4 Mondays will show that we have opportunities for change.  Small steps have been made through the implementation of some of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  We can all work towards many, many more small steps, resulting in large, much needed improvements for the everyday lives of indigenous peoples.

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41 Responses to Map Monday: indigenous history around the world, pre- and post-colonization

  1. Chris Hall says:

    Interesting. I was surprised at how few indigenous people are found in Africa. I know that in Southern Africa very few of the original inhabitants remain, partly due to the migration of other African people from further north who mostly remain to this day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I agree. I was surprised, too. There’s always so much to learn. Mind you, that doesn’t mean to say that there aren’t MANY, MANY centuries-long resident peoples in Africa and elsewhere who aren’t technically indigenous but who have still been treated appallingly by “interlopers”. Yes, in Southern Africa I think it is the San who are the remaining indigenous peoples.


      • Chris Hall says:

        Good point, Jane. The ‘Struggle for Africa’ and the greed and devastation the rush for Africa’s wealth has caused was, and is, truly appalling.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jane Fritz says:

          And one has to wonder how many more generations of marginalized people around the world have to suffer in their own homelands for the societal devastation perpetrated by foreign and colonizing powers.


  2. annemariewatson says:

    We of European ancestry have much to answer for in our spreading of misery around the world. Thank you for this important reminder that we are all standing on holy ground.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A horrific story that, as you indicated, continues today. Have you seen the Peacock show “Rutherford Falls”? A comedy, of sorts, that addresses this issue in modern times. Worth watching.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for the viewing tip, Laurie. I looked it up; I admit to being surprised they can build a sitcom around the characters’ sensitivities and/or lack of thereof about racial issues. It’s a topic so close to the bone. More owner to them if they can truly pull it off.


  4. A fascinating read on a subject I know a little about (1898-1902 Boer War), you’ll be aware ‘Great’ Britain has a pretty shameful charge sheet if we’re talking her conduct in the colonies………’s no secret Church of England missionaries travelled the globe their mission to convert brown skinned girls and boys into English speaking Christian’s, and I have no doubt many atrocities were perpetrated.

    My great grandfather was a Trooper (my grandmother gave me his medals now a treasured possession) fighting in the Orange Free Colony, he later served as a military police officer in Bethulie SA, a railway town used to imprison Boer women and children in the world’s first concentration camp, and a question remains did Matthew have anything to answer for? Perhaps not, probably not, though he must have witnessed things we’ll never know the truth of. But as one of your previous commenters said, many European State’s have blood on their hands.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane I’ve just posted a Blog reply for you, I haven’t written one in a while and lol I was at a loose end so to speak.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Many thanks for sharing some very relevant family history, A.S. As you say, as an empire builder, Great Britain’s record of its treatment of local populations right around the globe is shameful in the extreme, as can also be said of Spain, France, and other European countries. And the people from those countries who initially settled Canada, the U.S., and Australia carried forward the same egregious practices on indigenous peoples for far too long. And the role of the churches will/should go down in infamy. Shameful indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: A response to Jane – Blogging Thoughts Photos & Life

  6. Reblogged this on Musings and Wonderings and commented:
    Thank you for this important piece of History, maybe someone will be changed in a positive manner by reading this.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Small steps indeed. We need to take bigger ones, faster. I’m heartbroken and angry with the discovery of that unmarked even existed, and I’m enraged that the Catholic Church who ran the Kamloops Institute has been absolutely silent since the news broke. Shame on them and on the governments who thought putting those so-called Christians in control of those children was a good idea. This is a black mark that will be with Canada forever. We’ve lost any right we might have had to sit on the self-righteous side of things and judge other countries.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. bernieLynne says:

    I have been silent but writing (just not posted yet). I am so glad you are inspired to do monthly posts. I think I will pick up where I left off a couple of years ago and keep reading the TRC report plus other recommended actions and books. Thanks for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I read a Washington Post account of this story, Jane. I was so broken-hearted reading about those children. I”m glad a light is shining on them now, just as one is finally being done in a different circumstance in Tulsa, Oklahoma this week. Fascinating maps. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane Fritz says:

      It’s a long, long heartbreaking history. Powerful white men and their churches have so much history to answer for. Yes, Tulsa and so many other historical instances of subjugation and massacres of minorities in many places remind us of how we got where we are and how bloody much further we have to go. 😥

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Jean says:

    No doubt there are other unmarked graves of children near some residential schools elsewhere in Canada.

    I was in a museum here locally looking at Canadian map of all the different indigneous groups….and it suddenly (belatedly) dawned upon me, it’s like people saying “Asians” look alike, but we’re different culturally, linguistically Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc….looking similar but so different like the First Nations groups. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Canada’s day of reckoning is here: we have the Truth, let’s get serious about the Reconciliation | Robby Robin's Journey

  12. Sustain blog says:

    Thank you for this pre- and post-colonization of indigenous history. Native American lands is an eye opener.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: Indigenous Peoples Day, lessons in environmental stewardship and more | Robby Robin's Journey

  14. Hi Jane, lol following a train journey from Brussels to Antwerp, TinTin and Snowy embarked on an epic ship journey to the Belgian Congo.

    Tin Tin’s adventures in the Congo I’d suggest is a book everyone should read if they wished to understand why colonialism is just plain wrong, yes the story is naïve and racist without wishing to be (a child of its time), and I’m sensing you’re an educator and will have read it already. I hadn’t in years and because it’s no longer printed in English and no longer sold in UK bookshops I had to buy a French language edition from Europe!…………..anyways I won’t Witter on anymore, Tin Tin In The Congo s a good read for many varied and cultural reasons.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pingback: June 2021: non-Indigenous Canadians now understand only too well why we need National Indigenous History Month | Robby Robin's Journey

  16. Very timely post with the news about the graves of the students at residential schools. Thanks for the great maps, especially of the route to the Americas not over the Bering Strait.

    Liked by 1 person

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