turns 14 years of research into one-of-a-kind document detailing
locations of 584 tribes with original names
A map is defined as a representation, usually on a flat surface,
of the features of an area of the earth, showing them in their respective
forms, sizes and relationships.
Defining the word map may be easy, but creating one isn't necessarily
cartographer Aaron Carapella found this out while on a 14-year quest
to create a pre-Columbian map of the continental United States circa
1490. He completed his map, "Native American Nations: Our Own Names
and Locations," six months ago.
"Some tribes have already bought the map for their tribal colleges,
administration offices, and museums," said Carapella. "For my next
step I'm contemplating hitting the road to visit schools and tribal
offices to talk about the map in person."
The Native American Nations map shows 584 North American tribes
and roughly where they were located more than 500 years ago. About
150 tribes also have their current name listed below their original
name on the map for those who may not know the names that the tribes
call themselves. For example, you'll find Diné in large typeface
across northern Arizona and western New Mexico, with Navajo printed
Carapella varies the size of the typeface to denote the relative
land area and population of the tribes at the time. And since many
tribes were nomadic, Carapella placed the name of the tribe over
the area where its people originally lived before European settlers
Carapella began working on this project when he was 19 years
old after discovering a Native American atlas of all tribes was
"When I was a teenager going to powwows, there were maps of
tribes sometimes, but only maybe 50 to 100 tribes," the now 33-year-old
Carapella said. "It didn't seem like it was fully researched and
there was a lot of missing information."
went to work. His research began online, in libraries and with the
tribes themselves. He bought four poster boards and traced the continental
United States and started adding tribes on his own.
"After 14 years I wasn't too concerned necessarily about being
the creator of it, I just wanted it to be made," said Carapella.
"I'm trying to take the emphasis off me and just let people know
that now we do have a map."
Carapella is part Cherokee from Oklahoma on his mother's side.
He was raised in California but now lives in Flagstaff. His grandparents
taught him about his heritage beginning at a very young age.
"My grandpa gave me my first Native book, "Custer and Crazy
Horse" when I was about 6, and since then I've read hundreds of
books on Native history," Carapella said. "I'm almost an amateur
Native historian in a way."
Carapella, who is also a member of the American Indian Movement
(AIM), said he intends to expand the map to include tribes and tribal
nations from present-day Mexico, Canada, Alaska and maybe Hawaii.
Carapella spent countless hours poring through books, traveling
the country and making hundreds of phone calls and emails to the
tribes that still exist.
"Most tribes I could email and they'd respond rather quickly
answering questions about their culture, their history and their
name," said Carapella. "Sometimes I couldn't even find anyone in
the tribe that knew their original name."
Certain people from some tribes even researched that part themselves,
"For example, the Waileptu or Cayuse people, one of the last
speakers of their language worked at their museum and was able to
tell me what their name meant," he said. "I couldn't find it anywhere
else, either online or in any book."
Carapella said he didn't want to insult people from certain
tribes because he would not be including all of their bands. He
said he tried to put names of autonomous groups that might be linked
culturally but not geographically and linguistically.
"For example the Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota are all Sioux. I
could have put all seven bands of the Sioux here, but they see themselves
as all Lakota. So for me, I felt like to put their Nation is what
I was going for," said Carapella. "Another is the Cherokee, they
had 89 villages or towns, but am I going to list all 89 when I most
likely can't fit them all, or do I centralize the name? That was
Carapella said another valuable resource was the "Handbook of
the American Indians." He cross referenced that book with army records
and missionary records to determine where a trader said he met with
a certain tribe to narrow down locations for all tribes around 1490.
Carapella said he would then verify this data with an actual
source from the tribe, to ensure the highest possibility of accuracy.
Some remaining tribes only have a dozen or fewer surviving members.
Some tribes have very few speakers of their language left as well.
"I wanted to make this map to centralize all this information
into one location," Carapella said. "And then also to remember all
those tribes that passed away because of disease or warfare."
The 35-by-54-inch map is available in several versions, including
a smaller version.
More information is available online at aaron-carapella.squarespace.com.
Maps can be purchased from Carapella's website or by calling (949)