Modern maps of the United States are covered with place names assigned by colonists and settlers and derived primarily from European languages and surnames. However, long before these people arrived in what they called “The New World,” rivers, lakes, landforms, and population centers bore names reflecting the cultural knowledge of the millions of indigenous peoples who already inhabited the continent.

This week Professor Margaret Wickens Pearce, of the department of geography at the University of Kansas, will discuss her work advancing the Native American voice in mapping tribes’ ancestral lands.

The West Virginia University Geography Colloquium Series, the Native American Studies Program, and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology will host her colloquium presentation at 3 p.m. April 25, in room 325 of Brooks Hall on the downtown campus. The event is free and open to the public.

“Historically the indigenous voice has been silenced—their place names are essentially absent from modern maps. Dr. Pearce’s important work has given voice to indigenous peoples here and around the world,” said Pearce’s former student, Deborah Kirk, a National Science Foundation Research fellow and geography doctoral student at WVU.

Pearce’s presentation will focus on the cartographic outcome of a three-year collaboration with the Penobscot Indian Nation’s Cultural & Historic Preservation Department to map the traditional names of Penobscot (Wabanaki) territory in the Northeast.

“Dr. Pearce will underscore the importance of indigenous knowledge and the value of collaborative efforts when it comes to researching Native American history and culture,” said Bonnie Brown, coordinator for the Native American Studies Program.

Pearce (B.A. Hampshire College, M.A. and Ph.D. Clark University) is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. Her passions are cartographic design, indigeneity, narrative, and map history.

The Geography Colloquium is a long-standing department tradition organized by graduate students for the intellectual benefit of the students, faculty, and others who attend.

For more information on the colloquium please contact Bonnie Brown at



CONTACT: Devon Copeland, Director of Communication and Marketing, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter