Making maps speak: the The'wá:lí Community Digital Mapping Project




Trimble, Sabina

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The The’wá:lí Community Digital Mapping Project is a collaborative, scholarly project for which the final product is a digital, layered map of the reserve and traditional lands of the Stó:lō (Xwélmexw) community of The’wá:lí (Soowahlie First Nation). The map, containing over 110 sites and stretching from Bellingham Bay, Washington in the west to Chilliwack Lake, B.C. in the east, is hyperlinked with audio, visual and textual media that tell stories about places of importance to this community. The map is intended to give voice to many different senses of and claims to place, and their intersections, in the The’wá:lí environment, while also exploring the histories of how these places and their meanings have changed over time. It expresses many, often conflicting, ways of understanding the land and waterways in this environment, and presents an alternative to the popular, colonial narrative of the settlement of the Fraser Valley. Thus, the map, intended ultimately for The’wá:lí’s use, is also meant to engage a local, non-Indigenous audience, challenging them to rethink their perceptions about where they live and about the peoples with whom they share their histories and land. The essay that follows is a discussion of the relationship-building, research, writing and map-building processes that have produced the The’wá:lí Community Digital Map.



Stó:lō, space and place, storytelling, counter-mapping, digital humanities, community-engaged research, digital mapping, Indigenous history, colonial history, reserve history, First Nations mapping, Soowahlie, Chilliwack