_Cartography 17 Map.jpg

Over the past year, I’ve been working with Art Starts to create a giant, collaborative, decolonized map of Toronto with a project called Cartography 17.

Working with Lindsey Lickers, a Haudenosaunee/Anishinaabe artist, we dissolved cartography’s colonial language by depicting the land of Toronto informed by a First Nations way of knowing.

We brought workshops to communities across Toronto where participants created maps of their personal geographies. Each workshop began with an Indigenous ceremony and critical conversation on #canada150 and #colonization150.

Enjoy the map and read more below about its elements!

Sky World – Situated at the top and above the map is the depiction of Sky World, visually represented through the hybridity of the traditional and contemporary. Found in many Haudenosaunee nations attire, is the dome design telling the story of our way of knowing the physical and spiritual realms from which we all once came, and its interconnectedness. Everything beneath the dome represents mother earth, with everything above representing sky world, where creator watches over all of us. The aerosol design, created by Haudenosaunee/ Anishinaabe artist Lindsey Lickers, shows a contemporary interpretation of thecosmos, of sky world and kinetic energy with the orbs reflecting the presence of spirit and ancestors.

Ravines: plants – Pattern by Nyle Johnston that shows the mutually supportive relationship between spirit, plants and humans. 

Shoreline – even physical geography is unstable, and Toronto’s shoreline has changed over millennia, its soft sediment shifting with the tides of the lake, erosion creating the Bluffs and Toronto Island, and more recent infill extending the shoreline by, in some cases, more than a kilometre. 

Rivers – Water is life. When you stand by Toronto’s rivers, they feel so enormous. But when they’re drawn on regular maps, they appear as very small lines. Onthis mapthe rivers are drawn with thick blue strokes, not “to scale”, but certainly more like how we experience these water bodies, and how important they are to our life.

Human movement – Though it looks like Toronto’s highway network, these red lines represent human movement. Humans have been moving through this land for thousands and thousands of years, and they continue to move in the same directions today. Initially taking the form of portage trails along the coast and river valleys, that movement is today expressed by cars speeding along the highway. Red represents our blood.

Wampum belts – Before borders, there were agreements about how to use and share the land between nations. The agreements were recorded as Wampum Belts, and these covenants continue to govern this land. The Wampum belts describe agreements on relationships between people and the land — nobody can own the land, and thus, no one has the right to sell it. 

Dish with One Spoon Wampum: an agreement between the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee about how to share the resources of the land, ensuring that when one nation returned the dish and spoon, the dish would not be empty. This prototype of sustainability and inter-cultural harmony is still present, as Toronto continues to be a haven for an immense diversity of peoples. However, the dispossession of indigenous peoples and their sustenance from the land, and the subsequent polluting of our waterways, is a violation of this agreement.

Two Row Wampum belt: This agreement, originally made between the Dutch and Haudenosaunee, represents two vessels travelling side by side on a river. A canoe, representing Indigenous people, and a boat, representing European settlers can travel side by side, in peace, friendship and respect, without interfering with each other’s paths. Though the agreement was originally made with the Dutch, it implicates all settlers, historical and present on this land, and is a powerful representation of the “nation-to-nation” relationship possible across Canada with First Nations. 

Neighbourhood maps – throughout the summer of 2017, the Cartography 17 team travelled across the city, conducting workshops where participants created their own maps of their communities. They represent a dazzling array of personal experiences, and are a window into the emotional geography of Toronto.