The Roaring Map, Unheard

Lesson 2.3; Assignment 2.6 –– Colonialism

3) In order to address this question you will need to refer to Sparke’s article, “A Map that Roared and an Original Atlas: Canada, Cartography, and the Narration of Nation.” You can easily find this article online. Read the section titled: “Contrapuntal Cartographies” (468 – 470). Write a blog that explains Sparke’s analysis of what Judge McEachern might have meant by this statement: “We’ll call this the map that roared.”


After going over the short account of the case pertaining to the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en claims to ownership of land, as well as the judgement of McEachern, the “map that roared” is referred to by Sparke as one that “evoked the resistance in the First Nations’ remapping of the land: the cartography’s roaring refusal of the orientation system, the trap lines, the property lines, the electricity lines, the pipelines, the logging roads, the clear-cuts, and all the other accoutrements of Canadian colonialism on native land” (468). In short, it is a map that carries the roars of protest and unrest of the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en people with regards to their claims of the now “Canadian” land, and Judge McEachern who heard its spirit, and yet did nothing.

I’ve been drawing and colouring and labeling the map of Canada for as long as I could remember––being from a Canadian international school, more often than not we would be given the Canadian map and asked to something with it. All of those times it had to do with the land as the Europeans saw it: label the provinces and territories, the capitals, draw the resources of each part of Canada, draw the major trade routes, etc. What the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en map showed was a different Canada, one that they have been drawing over and over again. It’s a view of the land in their eyes, and when represented in court, discounts all of present Canada as everyone else sees it. It’s unknown, strange; it’s not Canada, it’s the First Nations’ land. The map stands as a depiction of the tribes and their settlement as well as their livelihood, and to accept it would mean to accept their claim to the land, one that is blatantly refused. This highlights the very issue of stories and the land, of who was here “first” and who had to rights to something when the very nature of the idea of “rights” are contested by two different groups with differing meanings of the word.

By producing their own map, the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en are pronouncing their entitlement to the land in some way, or to show that this is what Canada is supposed to look like, not what is depicted by the settlers and the colonizers. The redrawing of the land is akin to the First Nations’ reclaiming their land, as if an illustrated representation on paper marks the physical land in the same way. A map of the same land, but also a map of something foreign, roaring for legitimacy.


Works Cited

Sparke, Matthew. “A Map That Roared and an Original Atlas: Canada, Cartography, and the Narration of Nation”. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 88.3 (1998): 463–495. Web. 02 Mar 2016.