Mapping project reveals LA’s Indigenous past, aims to inform the city’s future

A map of indigenous trade routes in Southern California.

The perspective of Indigenous peoples ranks high among the features of a new, historical mapping project of the Los Angeles region, one that offers a resource to guide local planning efforts involving sustainability, habitat restoration and climate change preparation.

Blending insight from representatives of local Indigenous communities, extensive archival research and contemporary technologies such as spatial analysis and modeling, the long-running project headed by the Spatial Sciences Institute (SSI) at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences has developed the first systematic map of L.A.’s natural ecology.

Mapping Los Angeles Landscape History” offers a comprehensive view of the region’s natural environment and how Indigenous people interacted with the land and each other in a sustainable way before the arrival of European settlers.

The three-year collaborative effort drew on expertise from USC and four local public universities — UCLA and the Los Angeles, Northridge and Long Beach campuses of Cal State University — as well as three tribes: the Barbareño/Ventureño Chumash, Fernandeño-Tataviam and Gabrieleño-Kizh.

“This work gives rich insights into the ecological and cultural history of Los Angeles along with valuable context that should help city planners, land developers or anyone, including the public, ensure their projects don’t repeat the mistakes of the past,” said John Wilson, founding director of SSI and a project co-principal investigator.

Read the full story