Celebrate National Indigenous History Month with mapping activities

June 18, 2019 Angela Alexander

June is National Indigenous History Month and June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day. Are you looking for resources to celebrate the history, heritage and diversity of Indigenous Peoples in Canada? Discover mapping activities that your students can use to learn about the history of the First Peoples.

Happy National Indigenous History Month (NIHM)! Formerly known as National Aboriginal History Month, June is an opportunity to acknowledge and learn about the history and contributions Indigenous peoples have made and continue to make in Canada.

Explore the Indigenous Resources for K-12 Teachers group that includes resources that support the teaching of Indigenous studies in K-12 education.

Check out these mapping activities to celebrate the 10th anniversary of NIHM with your students.

  1. Turtle Island activity
    This is an introduction to Indigenous issues and points of view surrounding land in Canada. This activity compares both traditional Indigenous views of the land with those of the European settlers, and the history of treaties in Canada. It also includes maps displaying the populations of the Indigenous People living in Canada from the 2016 census.

The Turtle Island activity is an introduction to Indigenous issues and points of view surrounding land in Canada that can be used as a homework assignment or an in-class activity.

2. The Kanesatake Resistance! Activity
This activity investigates the events of the Kanesatake Resistance/Oka Crisis with emphasis on the land use and spatial aspects of the dispute case study. It is part of a larger activity called Turtle Island.

3. Explore and analyze data that are available in ArcGIS Online  and create your own web maps. Use the search term “Indigenous ArcCanada” to find content about treaties, residential schools and Indigenous population by province and territory.

This map displays locations of residential schools and reserves in Canada.

4. Create a story map highlighting Indigenous peoples who have helped shape Canadian history. Check out a list of inspiring individuals the Government of Canada has compiled.

5. Indigenous Peoples in North America Lesson
In this lesson, students can explore the Indigenous and European settlements in North America circa 1630, 1740 and 1823.

This map displays Historical First Nations Treaties in Canada from 1725-1930.

Be inspired by how other teachers in K-12 education and GIS Ambassadors are using  GIS in learning about Indigenous history and traditions.

  • GIS Ambassador Rob Langston: Supporting the use of GIS in K-12 education in Manitoba
    Find out how Rob applied the use of GIS for students to learn about important topics such as the challenges facing Indigenous people in Canada and life on reserves.
  • GIS Ambassador Jennifer Link: Supporting GIS in Thunder Bay 
    Read about a mapping project Jennifer was involved in with a local Indigenous high school. Over 2 days, they visited the First Nation Reserve of the Fort William First Nation to collect data on vegetation, climate and soil to learn about their local geography.
  • Karen Talbot: Using ArcGIS Online to engage students in their Indigenous history and much more 
    Teacher Karen Talbot uses ArcGIS Online to engage her students in learning and understanding their history and their community. Find out how Indigenous students in Kashechewan, Ontario have used ArcGIS Online to gain a deeper understanding of Treaty 9 and to learn more about the world around them.
  • Michael Li: Promoting GIS to Indigenous Community Schools Across Manitoba
    Find out why and how a technology facilitator at The Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre Inc. (MFNERC) is promoting the power of GIS to teachers, school administration and students in remote Indigenous communities.

Let us know how you plan to celebrate with your students and you may be highlighted in an upcoming post! 2019 is the United Nation’s International Year of Indigenous Languages that aims to raise awareness of the consequences of the endangerment of Indigenous languages across the world, with the hope of establishing a link between language, development, peace, and reconciliation.

We honour that goal with this beautiful song. “Blackbird” was written by Sir Paul McCartney and is performed in Mi'kmaq by Cape Breton student Emma Stevens.

When it was posted on Facebook, someone posted this comment. “I'm a teacher in Surrey, BC, and I have a Mi'kmaq student in my class this year who was moved to tears by hearing her traditional language for the first time. Your video has launched her journey of self-discovery. You're having an impact all the way across the country. Thank you. <3”

About the Author

Angela Alexander

Angela Alexander is a K-12 Education Resource Developer on the Esri Canada Education and Research team. She has over six years of experience working with educators across Canada. Angela is responsible for producing geographic information system (GIS) and curriculum specific resources, conducting and creating custom workshops for educators and judging and developing the question for the annual GIS Skills Ontario competition in Waterloo, Ontario. Angela has a Bachelor’s degree in Geography and Sociology from the University of Western Ontario and completed the Applied Digital Geography and GIS certificate program at Ryerson University.

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