Eds. note, Aug 17, 2016: Carapella has threatened legal action if I do not remove this review. I (Debbie) stand by my review.
Eds. note, Aug 23, 2016: Carapella has written to say he is sorry for saying he would take legal action for my review.
Back in 2014, I began to receive emails from Aaron Carapella, asking me to promote his Tribal Nations Maps. I took a look and found problems with it. Carapella saw my review and sent me a revision to that portion of the map. But--it still has problems. Because Carapella launched a go-fund-me page to solicit funds to distribute the maps to schools, I'm back with this 2nd look at his map.
In 2014, Carapella posted links in many places, including the Native American and American Indian Issues group on Facebook. It immediately drew a great deal of conversation. Many people looked at the maps and found problems. Carapella was resistant to their comments. Some are speakers of their own languages and told him he'd made errors in how he represented their specific nations, but he told them that he knew the right names, and that they were wrong. That discussion is gone. (If you're on Facebook, you know that you can delete one of your posts and the entire thread of comments will be deleted, too.)
This is what Carapella said when he launched his project in 2014:
This map presents every documented, known Native American tribe that was here in pre-contact time, before the arrival of Europeans. All of the tribal nations documented here are in their original locations before the European Invasion affected their movement and displacement. Most of the names of tribes are in their own language, and are not the names given to them either by the invading Europeans or even other tribes. For example, we correctly use the name Numinu for what most Americans would call the Comanche Nation. The Sioux are referred to here in their own language as the Lakota. Unfortunately, many of the tribes here are indeed listed by their given name. Their original names were lost in the War against the Indians which left many tribes numberless, or forced remnant bands to amalgamate into larger, stronger tribes. We seek here to honor those hundreds of tribal nations who existed in their respective territories for millennia unscathed until the encroachment of Europeans. This is a tribute to all of those forgotten tribes whose names had been lost to the wind, but who live in the hearts and minds of modern-day Native Americans who managed to survive the largest full-scale holocaust in Man's history. We also honor the Indigenous Nations of this land by giving them ownership of their own names for themselves.
That paragraph has since been revised. Currently on his website, Carapella states:
Here you will find the most comprehensive maps of pre-contact and at-contact Native North America to date. These maps use Tribal Nation’s original indigenous names for themselves, and show where Tribes were just before contact with outsiders . The intent of these maps is to instill pride in Native peoples and to be used as teaching tools from a Native perspective. These maps are part of my Tribal Nations Map series-which cover the Nations indigenous to the “United States,”, “Canada”, "Mexico" , "Central America", "South America" and “Alaska." Your purchase supports multiple upcoming maps. I credit the many hundreds of Cultural directors, elders, educators and linguists that have helped me centralize these names onto one visual display.
In my review in 2014, I focused on the Pueblo Indian Nations portion of the map. I'm doing that again, because that portion of the map, like the description of the project, has been revised. This review is arranged based on what Carapella said the maps would do.
Carapella said that his map would show Native Nations and where they were located pre-contact with Europeans. Sounds good, right? But--I'm asking you to look and think critically about that goal. Right now there are over 200 federally recognized nations in the US (not counting Alaska). There were a lot more, pre-contact. How, I wondered, was Carapella going to show the locations of those 200+ federally recognized nations in the hundreds and thousands of years prior to contact, or "at contact"? We didn't all come into contact with Europeans at the same time.
Let's hone in on an example.
The place my nation (Nambé O-Ween-Gé) is at right now is where we've been since the early part of the 14th century. If you go back further in time, we were somewhere else. I'm talking about places like Bandelier, Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon... (you might know those places as where the "Anasazi" people lived, but they are now--correctly--identified as ancestral homes of today's Pueblo Indians). On his map, Carapella chose to show us at our current locations, which is fine, but that decision points to a difficulty in the framework for the project. How do you convey thousands of nations in thousands of locations over thousands of years on a single map? How do you tell students which point in time a location on a map represents? That isn't unimportant data. It is vitally important.
Second, Carapella said that his maps would include nations that he called "numberless" which, he tells us, means ones that no longer exist. How, I wondered in 2014, would his map distinguish between those "numberless" ones and those that are currently recognized as sovereign nations?
As a Pueblo Indian woman enrolled at Nambe, I know there are nineteen sovereign Pueblo Indian nations in New Mexico right now. There were more, pre-contact. I know the names of some of them. I think it is important to know about them, but it is also important to know they aren't among the nineteen sovereign nations who have nation-to-nation negotiations--today--with the US government. Children in New Mexico should know the names of the nineteen Pueblo Indian nations, and all children should learn about us as we are, today, rather than the tragic and romantic content they learn that confines us to the past. This map shows the nineteen Pueblo Indian nations of New Mexico. Note: 8/18/2016--The pueblo south of Albuquerque is Isleta, not Laguna. Thank you, Danielle L., of Isleta Pueblo, for pointing out that error. I will contact the individual who made that map. It was made to show collectors the locations of the 19 pueblos. My apologies for not seeing the error when I selected it for use, here.
When I reviewed the Pueblo portion of his map in 2014, Carapella read my review and wrote to me to say he'd revise it. Last year, he sent me a screen capture of revisions he'd made. He asked me to update my review, but the revisions are just as bad as the original, so, I didn't revisit my older review.
Here's the screen cap he sent me. It has way more than nineteen. The first map didn't have all of those on there. That makes this one "more comprehensive" but also more confusing!
Here, I have inserted arrows to show you the "numberless" ones that aren't part of the nineteen:
In some instances, Carapella has made a different kind of error. He correctly lists A:shiwi (Zuni) but beside it he also lists Matsaki, Hawiku, and Halona, but they're villages that are part of A:shiwi. In my earlier review, I wrote that my own village ought to be listed as Nambé O-Ween-Gé, and pointed him to our tribal seal. But as you see above, he chose to use "Nambe Owingeh" instead.
Third, Carapella said his map would provide the names the nations used for themselves, rather than the ones outsiders used for them. That, too, is ambitious for many reasons. How did he find out those names? He tells us he made phone calls and visited people, but he doesn't name any names. His credit is a blanket one which tells us nothing. Because of our nation-to-nation relationship with the U.S. government, you can find a list of the 567 nations, which includes, superceded names (in parenthesis). It would be interesting for librarians/teachers to download that pdf and do some comparisons. How do the nations request they be listed? Does that match with what Carapella did?
As critical users of information, one of the things we do--and teach students to do--is to ask about the sources for information we're given. Carapella doesn't name his sources for the map, but he provides a "Resource List of Books/Movies/Websites" that he recommends. It, however, has The Education of Little Tree on it. That's a huge problem! That book has been soundly discredited for its content and because its author was faking an identity ("Forrest Carter" is actually Asa Carter--speechwriter for George Wallace--and a member of the KKK, too).
In short? The revisions to Aaron Carapella's Tribal Nations map of North America are not an improvement. The map is still flawed and, as such, I do not recommend it.
Update, August 15, 2016 at 11:55 AM:
In 2014, Chad Obiwanishinaabe Uran wrote Aaron Carapella's Tribal Maps Do Not Do Justice to Indigenous Nations and Here's Why. I linked to his post in my first review and am sharing it again, here.
Today, people on social media began sharing additional resources and comments about problems with Carapella's maps, including the ones of Canada. I'll be adding them as I can.
Eric Ritskes pointed to Maps Are Territories. I looked at the first couple of pages and will be studying it. Terrific info. See Eric's series of tweets, too.
On Twitter, Barbara Low (Mi'kmaq) wrote: He's conflating Mi'kmaq Districts with 'Nations' on his map. Those are the names of our Clan Districts, not Nations. Confusing.
On Twitter, a "deshkan ziibi chippewa in unceeded coast salish territory" wrote that the Canadian version has similar problems and that Carapella failed to detail the Salish Sea places communities by linguistic group.
Pamela J. Peters, a Navajo filmmaker in California, wrote on Twitter that Carapella "has been trying to get money for those maps for years" and that "some of the tribes in Southern California don't like them, and burned them." She shared a map that one of the tribes( Tataviam) did of the LA Basin. And she shared a link to American Indian Cultural Center, which has a copy of the map.
On Twitter, Sarah M. Storm (she's King Island Inupiaq) wrote that she had an email exchange with Carapella in 2014 because he used a photo of her grandmother and great grandmother and had put it in Northern Canada, near Iqaliut, rather than in NW Alaska. He captioned it "Eskimo mother and child" and, she writes, "assumed it was Inuit, & could be placed anywhere." Sarah pointed out a serious problem regarding Carapella's use of that photo and others he used. Did he get permission from the families of those in the photos he used? Sarah wonders where he got the photo, and, she said "We've had so much stolen from us" and that "we continue to have so much stolen from us."
Update, August 16, 2016 at 5:43
These are excerpts from comments submitted to my 2014 review:
Marlette Grant-Jackson, Yurok tribal member and Cultural Resource Coordinator for Humbolt State University in California posted a comment to the NPR story about the maps. She said:
Very Cool Idea, but as I have said to Mr. Carapella before, it is not accurate! Even if you list just the 566 federally recognized tribes in the United States, and use their own language to say their names he has left out MANY! This map of California (http://www.yale.edu/gsp/coloni... would have at least helped him to contact the California tribes to get correct names and placements. Example.... Howunakut is the name of a village site in Northern California's Tolowa territory, not the name of a people.Gena Peone, Spokane Tribe of Indians, archivist, wrote:
Overall, I didn't recommend it when asked about a purchase. Especially because our immediate Northern Plateau tribal names and areas were incorrect.
Update, August 17, 2016, 9:30 AM
On Facebook, Aaron Carapella said that he tried to work with me, collaboratively, on this project. I never received an invitation from him to do that.
The first email I got was one in which he asked me to buy one of his maps. It was a sales pitch. The wording in it was such that I ignored it. Two days later I got that email again. Again, I ignored it. Two months later, I got another one. In the interim, I'd received a lot of emails from others who had also gotten them and wondered if I had seen and reviewed them. When people start to write to me about something like that, I generally respond.
So, I reviewed Carapella's map on June 25th.
I sent an email to him on the 26th that says:
Dear Mr. Carapella,
I reviewed the pueblo portion of your map and found problems with it. A link to my review is below. In it, I suggest that individuals that have bought it do revisions. It is a great exercise in editing for students. And--I hope you can do revisions to future versions of the map. I've also heard from a lot of people that the information you have for their nations is not correct.
I think the idea is terrific but the actual map needs more work.
He wrote back, saying that had read my review and the comments people submitted. What I saw and reviewed, he said, was an outdated map and that he had already corrected what I pointed to in my review. He hoped to get the new revised map uploaded soon. He then went on to say that one of the people who commented on the review is a "naysayer" -- which is a term he is now using about me, along with "hater."
I appreciate that he is making revisions all the time, but what about all the people who buy earlier, flawed copies? The maps are expensive. I wonder if they're getting a free update. I wonder if they know that his maps are a "work in progress" that is continually being updated? It seems to me that, at the very least, the maps were released too soon. There are many valid questions being raised about accuracy and about protocol, too, regarding the use of photographs without permission. As I've said, I have questions about the accuracy and whether or not all that he means to convey CAN be conveyed in a single map.
On October 24, 2015, he wrote to me again, with a screen capture of the updates. As I noted above, that screen capture was what I used for the second review.
Some people think that his map is better than nothing and that it is wrong for me to criticize him. I think that although he meant well, he's contributing to the already too massive body of misinformation about who we were, and who we are. I focused on errors on the Pueblo portion of his map. Others are commenting--and continuing to comment on--errors in how he's depicted others.
On Aug 16, 2016, wrote to tell me that he will take legal action if I do not delete my reviews. I replied on Facebook and on Twitter that I stand by my reviews and will not delete them.
Kim Patrick Weaver used a series of tweets amongst several people to create a Storify about the Haudenosaunee content of the maps: Printed Maps a Poor Choice for Indigenous History.
There's an active discussion going on at my Facebook post, dated August 16 at 6:29 AM. Many There, several Native scholars, librarians, and educators are sharing their comments with Carapella. See substantive comments from Kara Stewart, Laura Grabhorn, and Deb Krol. Their discussions highlight other dimensions of the difficulties of a map, including federally recognized/state recognized/unrecognized nations. Some reference previously done maps and problems with them, too.
Update on August 22, 2016
Carapella sent me another private message on Facebook, apologizing that he said he was going to take legal action against me. He has decided not to do that.
A 2015 article at Indian Country Today, says:
A documentarian is making a film about Carapella’s project, and Hayden-McNeil, a textbook publishing company, is printing two of the maps in an upcoming book.Hayden-McNeil is part of MacMillan, which is a major publisher. That prompts many questions. In the threads on Facebook, Carapella writes that he is making revisions all the time, based on input. Revisions are good, but that also means that the maps are not ready for use with children in a classroom, or in a textbook, either. I hope that Hayden-McNeil (MacMillan) is aware of these errors/revisions, and I hope they're aware, too, that it is necessary to get permission to use the photographs on the maps. Some of the photographs may be in the public domain, suggesting that permissions aren't necessary, but taking that approach is problematic, too. Native peoples have been exploited by photographers for so long, that many tribes now have protocols specific to photographs and video recordings.