A map of southern California with the names of indigenous communities
Southern California’s Sustainable Past. Trade routes (red) connect Indigenous villages (red points) among mountains, rivers (blue) and other land features in the years before Europeans arrived. (Image source: Courtesty of Philip Ethington/LALAH 2023.)

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

Led by USC Dornsife’s Spatial Sciences Institute, the new “Mapping Los Angeles Landscape History” report offers a detailed, first-of-its-kind look at the region’s natural ecology before European settlers arrived.
ByDaniel P. Smith

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.On a gold background, “Asgmt Earth” appears inside a black circle and “USC” inside a small, white circle that slightly overlaps the black circle.

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.

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