The map, part of a national program created by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society in collaboration with Indigenous educators, has travelled to schools across the country giving teachers and students a chance to take a different look at Canada.
Rev. Deb Walker with Shaughnessy Heights United Church in Vancouver applied two years ago to get hold of the map so she could teach the program.
The map, which measures 11 by eight metres and is loaned to educators two weeks at a time, details Indigenous communities across the country using their languages.
“There are no provincial boundaries, there’s no colonial waterways named. It is a current map of where Indigenous people are living in what we call Canada as of today,” said Walker, who believes the program helps drive reconciliation and deepens knowledge of Indigenous history among students, teachers and church members like herself.
Beverly Brown, a Squamish-Heiltsuk board member of the United Church of Canada, says the map is a valuable tool in helping students understand and learn about Canada from an Indigenous perspective.
“It’s interesting because they don’t think of this as Indigenous land. They just think of it as Canada,” says Brown, who says the map teaches students about themes like traditional governance and treaties.
Walker has been teaching the program to students from different elementary schools in Vancouver, and many were eager to share what they learned.
“I learned that the purple spots on the map is where the Indigenous people live,” said Alexander Li, a Grade 4 student at Quilchena Elementary.
Classmate Adelyn Neighbour said it was interesting to see and learn from the map.
“It was so big,” she said. “The dots were unceded territory.”
Walker said she has also learned something new from the program.
“It’s really exciting for me as a settler person to learn stuff that I didn’t learn in school,” she said. “One of the really interesting things about the map is … the names of some places have been anglicized and others have actually been preserved.”
Walker said the United Church operated 15 residential schools between 1846 and 1969 and this is her way of honouring survivors.
“We have to reconcile our own history and we have to take on the responsibility of healing and understanding and creating new pathways for relationship,” she said.
Brown, a chaplain with the Longhouse Council of Native Ministry, which serves 19 Indigenous faith communities in B.C., says while the giant map is a good step forward, schools should also include people from local Indigenous communities in the program to share their stories and history.
“We have to be willing to be vulnerable with one another, to ask questions, to learn together, to move forward together,” she said.
“We are all one. We are one heart, one mind, moving together.”