LB - Northland Motorsports

Home | Classifieds | Place an Ad | Public Notices | Galleries | Milestones | Contact Us | Subscribe | e-newsletter | RSS |
Navajo-Hopi Observer | Flagstaff, Arizona

home : features : features May 28, 2016

7/16/2013 10:02:00 AM
Mapmaker continues Native American tribe traditional name map series
Aaron Carapella recently completed a map that reflects the true names of Native American tribes across Canada. Submitted photo
Aaron Carapella recently completed a map that reflects the true names of Native American tribes across Canada. Submitted photo
Katherine Locke

Aaron Carapella spent 14 years making a unique map that reflected the true names of Native American tribes across the continental United States before they had contact with Europeans. Now, he has finished a similar map of Canada's tribes.

Carapella used the same layout and design for both maps. The maps are available with or without borders and as one full large wall map or separately on Carapella's website.

The new Canadian map will reflect how diverse native cultures are. Pictures show people dressed in different styles and show dwellings that are completely distinct from each other.

"I did not originally intend on doing Canada but now I'm really glad because it's going to show that borders didn't exist," Carapella said. "Now you'll see an even broader distinction of Native America because it's going to be from Canada all the way down."

Carapella, who is part Cherokee, said he had an interest in history in general and in native history in particular - especially his own. He asked personal questions of himself and others: what does it mean to be part Native American when you are living in the city, and where did my family come from? Those questions led him to a desire to learn more about different tribes.

One thing struck him as he learned about different tribes from friends and from books. The names in the books were different than the names his friends sometimes gave and vice versa.

"Sometimes they'd tell me that name is actually derogatory but that's what everyone calls us," Carapella said.

According to Carapella, the Sioux' real name is Lakota, which means the allied people, or the unified people. But their common name is Sioux, which is a derogatory mix of French and Objibwe that loosely translated means the snake people, which can mean people who are tricky.

"A lot of people call themselves Sioux, but if you ask them if they like that name, they say no, I'm not really Sioux, I'm Lakota," Carapella said.

Carapella doesn't know the percentage of the common names of tribes that non-natives gave them but he said enemy tribes were sometimes the ones who gave another a name without a positive connotation.

"Some of the names mean the aggressive ones or the warring ones or the scaredy cat ones," said Carapella. "Of course people from that tribe aren't going to want to be called that."

The job of finding accurate names wasn't an easy one. About one-third of the tribes have their real name listed on their website with a translation of the name but 25 percent are not listed anywhere. To get an accurate name from those tribes, Carapella had to speak to tribal sources. Sometimes he couldn't find an obvious person to answer his questions. To further complicate matters, in some instances, native speakers have died and with that loss is the loss of the true name of the tribe.

"This map would look different in 50 years because there would be fewer people who can identify some of the names," Carapella said. "One hundred years ago, this map would be more accurate because in the last 100 years a lot of people passed away who would know the names."

The maps are not without controversy. He says he receives calls constantly from people who say he has forgotten their tribe.

"The map gets updated constantly," Carapella said. "Sometimes I used names that were available at the time, when no other information was available."

Carapella said people ask why he didn't include Alaska since it is part of the U.S. but he says that the size of Alaska made it almost impossible to include with the first map.

"Look at the size of the map already," Carapella said. "Where was I going to put Alaska unless I made the thing as large as the whole wall?"

But he is still considering adding Alaska to his collection of maps along with Mexico. And he also is thinking of starting a detailed map of California which will break down the larger groups of tribes into their smaller villages of about 20 people and list them separately instead of the interlinked tribes that are more common now.

Carapella also said peopel have asked why he is creating indigenous maps from pre-European times that show modern state lines. He explained that he wanted to make the maps accessible to educators who find that common names help people place tribes more easily for students.

"I personally, because I am so into history, don't even recognize the border," said Carapella. "Whether or not it's the Mexican side or the Canadian side, every single one of those tribes along the top or the bottom perimeter of that map crossed over into the other country before it was ever that country."

More information about Carapella and his maps can be found at

    Recently Commented     Most Viewed
Mapmaker continues quest to document indigenous cultures
New documentary focuses on Native American veterans on Navajo Nation
Letter to the editor: Where do children learn to speak fluent Navajo?
Delegate Edmund Yazzie continues work for Thoreau, N.M. clinic
Pirates of the Navajo Nation under attack

Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, September 23, 2013
Article comment by: Cary Crane

There was a tribe located off the coast of Southern California which is now extinct. They Gabriel indians as they were called were removed from the island to work @ the mission Sickness soon spread among the tribe as the Spainards carried small pox and other sickness.

Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2013
Article comment by: Aaron Carapella

Hi Angie,

Those two islands are included. It is just hard to spot on this small picture. To see the map in detail, please go to:

There is a link to a PDF there that will blow the map up. YOu can zoom in all over it.


Posted: Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Article comment by: Angie Silvestre

Don't know if I am mistaken, but from the image in the article, it looks as though there is no Haida Gwaii island off the northwest BC coast nor is there a Vancouver Island off the southern BC coast? Also cannot see if there is Haisla, but the mid coastline also looks a little barren.

Article Comment Submission Form
Comments are not posted immediately. Submissions must adhere to our Use of Service Terms of Use agreement. The email and phone info you provide will not be visible to the public. Rambling or nonsensical comments may not be posted. Comments are limited to 1300 characters or less. In order for us to reasonably manage this feature we may limit your comment entries to five(5) per day.
Submit an Article Comment
First Name:
Last Name:
Anti-SPAM Passcode Click here to see a new mix of characters.
This is an anti-SPAM device. It is not case sensitive.

Advanced Search

HSE - We want to hear from you
Find more about Weather in Flagstaff, AZ
Click for weather forecast

Submission links
 •  Submit site feedback or questions

Find It Opinions Features Submit Extras Other Publications
Home | Classifieds | Place an Ad | Public Notices | Galleries | Milestones | Contact Us | Subscribe | e-newsletter | RSS | Site Map
LB - Northland Motorsports

© Copyright 2016 Western News&Info, Inc.® The Navajo-Hopi Observer is the information source for the Navajo and Hopi Nations and Winslow area communities in Northern Arizona. Original content may not be reprinted or distributed without the written permission of Western News&Info, Inc.® Navajo-Hopi Observer Online is a service of WNI. By using the Site, ®, you agree to abide and be bound by the site's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, which prohibit commercial use of any information on the site. Click here to submit your questions, comments or suggestions. Navajo-Hopi Observer Online is a proud publication of Western News&Info Inc.® All Rights Reserved.

Software © 1998-2016 1up! Software, All Rights Reserved