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Big Ten Academic Alliance Geospatial Information Network (BTAA-GIN) Action Plan

August 2022


We acknowledge that the Big Ten Academic Alliance Geospatial Information Network (BTAA-GIN) and our livelihoods as University employees, are built upon the stolen lands, labor, and resources of Indigenous people across the continent of North America. These factors include, but are not limited to:

Directly occupied land.

The institutions in the BTAA-GIN are physically located in the present-day states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. This region is the homeland of numerous tribes throughout history and today. Visit Native Land Digital to view maps of Indigenous territories, treaties, and languages across the world.

Seized and sold land.

Ten of our fourteen member institutions are land grant public universities that were established through the Morrill Act. These institutions were endowed directly from the profits generated from the forced dispossession and sale of Indigenous land in geographically disparate locations across the nation. Visit Land Grab Universities to learn more about this history.

Maps and geospatial data as tools for dispossession and erasure.

The collections in the BTAA Geoportal contain historical maps, many of which were created or used to make possible the identification, sale, and distribution of ill-gotten land. Furthermore, most of the maps and data included in the collection describe places from a colonial perspective, contributing to the erasure of indigenous names and meaning. Read more about this topic with our Critical Cartography Reading List.

Commitments to Action

Through our participation in the BTAA-GIN, we plan to take the following actions on an ongoing basis:

Engaging with tribal communities

  • We will strive to consult with tribal groups providing maps and geospatial data to better understand the ways in which our project can challenge data colonialism and support Indigenous data sovereignty, and we will compensate tribal consultants for their labor.
  • We will explore opportunities to partner with Tribal Colleges and Universities and other tribally-affiliated groups, as the BTAA-GIN project continues to evolve.
  • We will use the knowledge gained from this engagement to enhance and assess the other planned activities described in this document.

Developing and describing collections

  • We will create criteria for inclusion of resources about tribal lands or created by tribally-affiliated groups in the BTAA Geoportal.
  • We will seek permission to harvest metadata and create item records for resources created by Indigenous data providers prior to adding these resources to the BTAA Geoportal, even if these resources are already publicly available elsewhere.
  • Through this communication, we will ensure that item records for these resources include appropriate rights/license statements, as indicated by the data providers.
  • We will improve contextual information for BTAA Geoportal collections (e.g., land survey records) to educate users about how these resources contribute to the dispossession of native lands and the erasure of Indigenous place names and meaning.

Amplifying Indigenous voices

  • We will invite Indigenous researchers, cartographers, and geospatial professionals to speak about their work at the BTAA GIS Conference and other BTAA-GIN activities, and we will compensate invited speakers for their labor.
  • We will use our various project platforms (blog, social media) to highlight tribal GIS activities and resources across our region and beyond.


In creating this action plan, we relied on guiding resources provided by the Native Governance Center, specifically: Beyond Land Acknowledgment: A Guide