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Manitoba History: Review: Linda Camponi, Maps of Indian Reserves and Settlements in the National Map Collection, Volume 1: British Columbia, Volume 2: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories

by Barry Kaye
University of Manitoba

Manitoba History, Number 7, Spring 1984

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

Please direct all inquiries to

Maps of Indian Reserves and Settlements in the National Map Collection. Vol. I, British Columbia. Vol. II, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories. Comp. Linda Camponi, Ottawa: Public Archives of Canada, ©1980, 1981. ISBN 0-662-50525-5 (vol. I), ISBN 0-662-51523-4 (vol. II).

There seems to be a growing realization in Canada’s scholarly community that maps and plans are a valuable source of historical evidence. Since maps vary greatly in content and purpose, they are relevant to many areas of human activity. Evidence, perhaps, of this increased awareness of the significance of maps to all types of historical study in Canada has been the recent appearance of several excellent cartobibliographies. The two volumes under review come soon after William Oppen’s cartographic history of the Riel Rebellion. The first volume is a listing of maps and plans within the holdings of the National Map Collection that relate to Indian reserves and settlements in British Columbia. The second volume carries out the same task for the three Prairie Provinces, Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories.

As European settlement spread across the southern margins of Canada a large part of the Indian population was placed on reserves. Today almost 600 Indian communities or bands live on some 2,300 reserves scattered throughout Canada. The location and boundaries of these numerous reserves had to be accurately determined and defined on the ground. As a result, the setting up and administration of the reserves has generated considerable cartographic activity. Many of the maps and plans of Indian settlements that were produced eventually accumulated in the various federal departments involved in Indian affairs. Something of the richness of this cartographic resource can be gauged from these two volumes. The compilers do not, however, claim that their listings are definitive. They caution researchers that other maps relating to Indian reserves and settlements in Canada can be found in provincial archives and other institutions.

The usefulness of volumes such as these, and the effectiveness of their organization, can best be evaluated by researchers who work with them in the archives. A few general maps are included in each volume, but most maps have been listed according to the name of the reserves depicted upon them. The thirty-eight pages devoted to Manitoba in volume two, for example, comprise a listing of more than 150 Indian settlements and reserves. Reserves are listed alphabetically and against each one are the titles of the maps upon which they are shown. These volumes are organized, therefore, to help the researcher identify maps that relate to a particular Indian reserve or settlement. A reference map at the front of each volume showing the location of the reserves listed might have made the works easier to use. In each volume more than twenty maps are reproduced. These help to reduce the visual monotony of the listings.

The appearance of these listings is timely and they should be welcomed by many Canadian scholars. They are clearly a response to the growing interest in the role of the Indian in Canada’s past. In particular, they should be a great help to all researchers working in the controversial area of Indian land claims in Canada. Both volumes deserve a place in all Canadian reference libraries.

Page revised: 27 October 2012

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