Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

Maps and Memes: Redrawing Culture, Place, and Identity in Indigenous Communities

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

Maps and Memes: Redrawing Culture, Place, and Identity in Indigenous Communities

Article excerpt

Gwilym Lucas Eades, Maps and Memes: Redrawing Culture, Place, and Identity in Indigenous Communities. Montreal and Kingston: McGillQueen's University Press, 2015. 242 pages. ISBN 978-0-7735-4449-9. $34.95 paperback.

Evidence strongly suggests that most - probably all -Indigenous communities in North America produced maps long before they made contact with Europeans. For Gwilym Lucas Eades, a geographer at the University of London, maps still hold great healing potential for Indigenous communities in the twenty-first century. Maps and Mentes was written with a very ambitious goal: "the collection, arrangement, and presentation of evidence to make the case that radical geospatial measures can be harnessed alongside and in tandem with institutional pressures to break (or negate) negative momentum" (202). In other words, Eades argues that, just as mapping and other cartographic practices can cause people to become "unmoored" from place, they can also act therapeutically to anchor people in healthy ways to their surroundings (16). Only time will tell whether this book can contribute significantly to the accomplishment of such a lofty goal, but the book does at least offer fascinating explorations into place-memes.

Maps and Mentes is a deeply personal product motivated by a desire to contribute to the health of Indigenous societies without coming across as prescriptive. Much of the book deals with the Cree and Inuit of northern Quebec, and especially with the Cree community at Wemindji, on the eastern shore of James Bay. These were the focus of the author's PhD studies. However, the book also examines portions of the Northwest Coast -where the author grew up and on which he completed his MA. As Eades explains in his Preface, his book is deeply rooted in his own formative experiences as a non-Aboriginal person growing up in communities with substantial Indigenous populations.

The title of Maps and Mentes playfully alludes to Hugh Brody's well-known book, Maps and Dreams (Douglas & McIntyre, 1981). At the same time, Eades uses the term "memes" first developed by Richard Dawkins, but develops his own definition of the term, not encumbered with the evolutionary biologist's preoccupations, but nevertheless assumed to be tied to the mental and social health of individuals and societies. …

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