About Native Places

Native Places and Indigenous Atlas of Utah and the Intermountain West

Native Places is a spatial humanities project of the American West Center. It consists of an interactive, layered map centered on Utah that encompasses the homelands of the state’s traditionally associated tribes. The map will record and restore indigenous place names to major landscape features and selected historical and cultural sites.

Inspiration for the project comes in part from Keith Basso’s Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache.

“It is well to keep in mind that interpreting the past can be readily accomplished –and is every day –without recourse to documentary archives, photographic files, and early sound recordings. It cannot be accomplished, readily or otherwise without recourse to places and the place-worlds they engender. Long before the advent of literacy, to say nothing of ‘history’ as an academic discipline, places served humankind as durable symbols of distant events and as indispensable aids for remembering and imagining them –and this convenient arrangement, ancient but not outmoded, is with us still today.”

–Basso, Wisdom Sits in Places, 7.

Native peoples are placed based on peoples. Their histories are embedded in places and place names. Erasing Native place names this effectively erases Native histories. Mapping was one of the principal tools of colonialism. Maps made new colonies “legible” to colonial administrators and facilitated the implementation of policies, programs, and regulations that supplanted indigenous lifeways.