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GIS Data Mapping

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Spring 2015   


        Obstacles, Solutions, and Self-Determination in Indian Housing Policy
        Who Counts? Identifying Native American Populations
        Local Initiatives Promote Homeownership in Indian Country

GIS Data Mapping

Tribes have increasingly used geographic information systems (GIS) mapping to obtain place-based information and inform planning and policy. Successful methods bridge cultural differences between Native American ways of knowing and European-inspired viewpoints.1

Examples include:

  • The Bois Forte Reservation tribal council planning department has implemented GIS to track and manage land ownership, including the reacquisition of trust lands. Community members helped determine how to categorize sites. For example, maple sugaring areas, berry-picking and medicinal-plant-gathering areas, and osprey nests were included as cultural and historic sites.2

  • In New Mexico, tribal youth in the Ohkay Owingeh tribe were trained in GPS and GIS methods, which they used to perform field documentation of the historic core of the pueblo. This work helped evaluate more than 60 homes for rehabilitation.3

  • The Mojave Indian Tribe has a Tribal GIS Department supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The tribe has used GIS for a tax-credit housing project, easements, roads, and long-term planning in the areas of land use and transportation.4

  1. See Ray A. Williamson and Jhon Goes In Center. 2001. “Using Geospatial Technologies to Enhance and Sustain Resource Planning on Native Lands,” Photogrammetric Engineer­ing and Remote Sensing 67:2, 167–9.
  2. Laura Smith. 2008. “Indigenous Geography, GIS, and Land-Use Planning on the Bois Forte Reservation,” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 32:3, 139–51.
  3. Tribal GIS. “2012 National Tribal GIS Conference: Presenters and Abstracts” ( Accessed 13 April 2015.
  4. Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. “GIS” ( Accessed 22 October 2014.


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The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.