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Mapping and Cultural Documentation

A key element to protecting native customary land rights for Indigenous communities is establishing maps of traditional territories. Our partners have worked with communities in the Upper Baram for over a decade to survey traditional land use areas, ancient boundaries, and key sites of cultural and historical significance. 

 

In 2017, our partner Bruno Manser Fonds completed a mapping project with 63 Penan communities, identifying the native customary lands of each community, as well as hunting and gathering grounds, birth and burial sites, and the names of hundreds of key geographical landmarks. 

The mapping and cultural documentation process is highly collaborative. Community members are provided with equipment and trained on GPS (Global Positioning System) data point collection and land survey techniques, which empowers them to essentially map their own ancestral territories. The cartographic recording of local culture is an important component of the project. Thanks to the Penan's extraordinary spatial knowledge, it has proved possible since 2002 to document more than 5000 names of rivers and streams, 1000 names of other topographic features, the locations of 600 dart-poison trees, and more. The collected geographic information led to the online mapping project Sarawak Geoportal.

Mapping is now in progress for multiple Kenyah villages, with a new large-scale project planned to begin in 2024

A field technicial holds out a recording device to two Penan elders, including Along Sega, to record oral history
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