Tribal Nations Maps
Aaron has created a series of the most comprehensive pre-contact Tribal maps, documenting the Indigenous Peoples of “North America”, using their own Native names for themselves.
Aaron’s vision for this series began when he was still in his youth. He went to Powwows and Native museums and did not find any in-depth Tribal maps that were presented from a Native perspective. As a mixed-blood Native, Aaron was inspired to seek the missing information to learn and to share with others. He started this series when he was just 19 years old.
He started by creating his own map with four poster boards, and by asking friends from many tribes about their tribe’s Native names. Over the course of his journey, Aaron has been to approximately 250 Tribal communities across North America. These communities greatly assisted him in putting together the missing pieces to create the maps. He also read hundreds of Native American books. In 2012, he created his first copyrighted map. Since then, he has developed a business from this concept, and sells the maps to schools, tribes, museums and individuals.
The most significant challenge he has faced in the process of developing the maps has been walking the fine line between representing all Nations while not offending anyone in the process. The placement of Tribal names signifies territories they claim as their own, which sometimes comes in conflict with the assertions of other Nations.
The greatest satisfaction Aaron receives from his work is when he sees Natives who have never seen their Tribe on a map before they see his maps. Aaron has always fought for Native rights, mainly as an activist and demonstrator, and he believes that the maps offer something different. The maps are being introduced as PART OF the system, which is very different than just trying to change things from the outside looking in. This has made him feel like he has created something worthwhile to change stereotypes and misnomers about Native people.
He believes that it instills pride to see one’s Tribal name on a map, especially in one’s own language, and for some this pride is immediate. This feeling reinforces people’s desire to use their language, and remember where their ancestors came from. He has also witnessed non-Natives being impacted by the work. It has created a lot of conversations about Native history and contemporary life.
Aaron stays committed to his work and inspired every day by the people he has motivating him to continue creating maps, or who encourage him by saying “thank you.” He really had no idea the map concept would be so well received, and knowing that people appreciate restoring Indigenous ideas keeps him going.
So what is next for this connective legacy? Aaron has several projects in the mix, including a new website that was just launched. He is also involved with a couple of organizations working on interactive features, such as a clickable map where you will be able to hear an audio clip of tribal name pronunciations. There is also an upcoming film about Aaron’s map project! He is always working on a new map, and the current one he is researching for is a Central American Tribal map.
Aaron’s words of advice around creating your own legacy path are to “find something you are deeply passionate about, and try to think from the perspective of others who are like-minded. What is missing for this community? What can you create out of that missing information that will be desired by others who are passionate like you?”
You can view and purchase Aaron’s maps on his website. They are available in different styles, including an art canvas edition. They are a beautiful tribute to the Tribal Nations and invaluable educational pieces.