Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Merced

UC Merced Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUC Merced


  • Author(s): Fleenor, Adam
  • Advisor(s): Hull, Kathleen
  • et al.

This dissertation intersects three lines of scholarship, each of which contributes to answering the primary research question: how and why Native Americans in some communities in California are creating counter maps using Geographic Information Systems (GIS)? First, this dissertation explores California Native communities’ approach to spatial knowledge production and the benefits and risks associated with mapmaking. Ethical concerns related to past and present research modes are identified and alternative methodology is implemented to uplift both the data and the voice of the cartographer. Second, this study explores the power of maps by understanding the process of mapping and the embedded proposition found in State and other official maps, and compares these elements to Native GIS users’ alternative or counter maps. One significant motivation for counter mapping is to maintain or reassemble social memory by organizing cultural spatial knowledge for the community. The third research thread examines the praxis of counter mapping through the lens of critical pedagogy as a response to and way of disempowering of US colonial systems. By investigating paradigms in knowledge production, cartographic encounters, goals of Native sovereignty, and cultural continuality, I posit that using GIS has substantially increased Native power in education, land tenure, and cultural persistence. By way of conclusion, I distinguish motivations for creating Native-centered GIS maps and outline future research based on my study.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View