Discussion of Select Terminology

This section provides a brief discussion of some conceptual ideas and Indigenous theoretical frameworks critical to an understanding of the Commanda digital mapping process and discourse.


A close examination of William Commanda’s public practice, performance mapped at multiple levels, over the course of several decades, and more intensively over the past 40, reveals power generation via interaction with the unseen force. His chosen public word for this unknown force is Creator. Here he asserts connection with the procreative, evolving, emergent, multidirectional and temporal dynamic. William Commanda became Keeper and Carrier of three sacred wampum belts of spiritual, historical, and political significance in 1970, the Seven Fires Prophecy, Three Figure Welcoming, and the Jay Treaty Border Crossing belts. William Commanda is the last and longest known guardian of the ancient mnemonic Wampum prophetic oral storytelling and animative record-keeping heritage of his Mamiwinini/Nomad Algonquian ancestors; he held the sacred wampum belts for 40 years. The following excerpt from the book, Learning from a Kindergarten Dropout, provides a contextual description: “From the earliest of times, William’s ancestors along the eastern seaboard of North America created belts woven with beads made of the purple and white shells of the marine sea creatures. The word wampum emerges from the Algonquin word wampumpeage which described white shells and or strings of shells; its roots link also with the words waban and wabanpaog, referring to the dawn or the first light of the east, and the eastern people, the Algonquians. The belts that William carries are predominantly purple; the beads were made from the shell of the quahog. It is not clear how they fashioned the thousands of tiny beads before the age of industrialization, but it is well known that they created many beautiful belts that served as devices to record their stories, legends, prophecies and agreements. These served both as a living record of a commitment and also a means to recall the messages.”8 The wampum belts were the mnemonic devices or memory awakeners, ideographic rather than phonetic. They complemented language and oral delivery in communications. Thus, it is suggested that Wampum was spirit text, only accessed and understood by certain people. It is interesting that the Seven Fires Prophecy itself warns about false prophets. Part of the reason William Commanda’s message resonated for many diverse peoples emerges from the authenticity of his voice as prophet, even more evident almost a decade after his death.

Orality and Language

William Commanda’s understanding of land emerged from his orality and language emergent of his cosmic world. Language was critically important to him. Countless people have affirmed how seamlessly Algonquin, French, and English languages were used by him and his wife in their daily communications. Algonquin is a land-based language, wherein, according to him in his analysis and articulation, the land itself, its sounds, its physical, geological and biological realities (rocks, stone, animal, plant and the elements) shaped and determined the evolution of the language. The generic language which emerged with the Algonquins of the Ottawa River Watershed was transmitted across the country by his nomadic ancestors; he emphasized that there were 84 Algonquin Nations across North American that spoke dialects of the mother tongue. William Commanda was raised on the ancient Algonquin language. While confined to French and English in his communications with others, he nonetheless performance-communicated his own much vaster understandings of truth and meaning to complement his words. The import of his words and other dimensions of communications warrant careful examination to grasp an understanding of the depth of his thoughts and by extension, this applies to the understanding of Indigenous peoples and their communication styles. He, however, was a virtuoso performer and, as is still evidenced in social media, drew a diversity of people into his web of communications.


William Commanda identified himself and his people as Mamiwinini; the word itself incorporates the critical motional element integrative of both time and space and brings a unique element to the study of his Indigenous mapping. As discussed in Learning from a Kindergarten Dropout,9 “The Mamiwinini journeyed over the waterways of Turtle Island, spinning a web of protection and prayer over the vast continent for thousands of years, passing over lightly, leaving an indelible trace of the brunches of the great family tree that comprised 84 nations linked by both language and a deep connection to the land.”10 Motional spatial understanding was determined by and emergent from the name and identity was commensurate with the idea of map in motion. Nomad is a restrictive translation of the word because it implies transience; William Commanda affirmed cyclical permanence of presence on the land. His temporal and spatial understanding incorporated elemental and motional Law of Nature knowledge.11

174 Romola V. Tbumbadoo et al Cybernetics

With respect to the academic analysis of geo-cybernetics, in the context of the emergent field of cybercartography, Reyes presents several angles to facilitate research in three chapters in Cyber cartography: Theory and Practice.12 By way of background, she notes that Norbert Wiener (1894-1964), a mathematician, used the word cybernetics [derived from the Greek kybernetes, which means steersman, and shares its etymological root with the word governing—our note] to describe the science of communication and control in the organism, the machine, humans, and society. He noted that society can only be understood through a study of messages and the communication facilities to which it belongs, thus emphasizing the relevance of the study of communications and the role of information in human life and for the user via a feedback process.15 The explicit involvement of the user in the reflection on the feedback is of interest in the Commanda geo-cybernetic research. Wiener notes that communications and language are inseparable. The relevance of language issues in cybernetics are not only for people or living creatures, but also for communications between humans and machines or among machines themselves. This sets the context for social control cybernetics, algorithm, and artificial intelligence. However, as Taylor points out, Weiner conceptualizes a scientifically objective first- order cybernetic system with an observer who is not seen as part of the system; “In Cybercartography, the user is an integral part of the creative process.” 4

Reyes also discusses modeling in the context of cybernetics, noting that maps are visual models of the geographical landscape where a geometrical language is used to represent geospatial information.1’ She elaborates on Russell’s analysis of Lobachevshy’s demonstration that the truth of Euclidean geometry (grounded in axiom, a statement taken to be true) could only be established by observation, not by reasoning; i.e. geometry is an empirical science based on observations. She points out further, that “Once knowledge is formalized in either mathematical or other terms, a reader might deduce wrongly that the frameworks have emanated from pure reasoning processes, rather than from empirical observation.”16 This critical deduction leads us to a grasping of the science and mathematical precision foundational to Indigenous knowledge.

Reyes raises two other research items of interest: 1) Von Bertalanffy (1950) developed the systems theory to transcend the limitation of the reductionist approach to studying nature and this recognized wholistic structures and interrelationship of system and context; this aligns with William Commanda’s central theoretical principle of Ginawaydaganuc—that we are all connected with each other and with nature; and 2) Jackendoff (1994) raises the question of the relationships between natural language and knowledge, and spatial images and knowledge. He notes further that the theory of spatial representation is less developed than that of the encoding of linguistic meaning and he points also to the synergetic effect of integrating various models and languages.1 Again, this has implications for wampum storytelling that compounds spatial and linguistic dimensions, and that incorporates and animates synergy and syntropy. Reyes argues that “the interactivity inherent to cybercartography allows the user to manipulate messages so that new geospatial information is created. This feedback process between the prototype and the users is an essential characteristic of cybernetics and allowed the advancement of the Helix trajectory.”18 This presents a context to understand the Sacred Cane/Axis Mundi motif intrinsic to many Indigenous belief systems, including the Circle of All Nations Logo tree, around which the Commanda thesis is structured.19

With her discussion of Integral Theory, Reyes notes that Wilber draws an approximate contour associating formal-operational cognitive capacities with modern rationalism, and he uses the term vision-logic to denote higher and deeper level cognitive capacities that transcend (and include) rationalism, and modernity- into-postmodern forms of representation, discourse, epistemology, expression and being. Vision-logic is essentially transrational and therefore, more apt to better contextualize levels of meaning beyond strictly factual or codified knowledge and is presently emerging as the next wave in the study of human consciousness. Formalisms, as represented in various texts, narratives, statistics, and conventional maps, all have limited capacity to respond to the increasing need to put very large amounts of information into forms that are meaningful to society.20 This creates an opportunity for cybercartography to advance itself as an important tool for this emerging vision-logic capacity, as a means to help integrate, synthesize, visualize, and communicate very complex information in ways that go much beyond the conventional use of the geographic map, thereby giving planning and mapping a new level of application and meaning in the information era. Without the cybertechnological tools, William Commanda accesses this domain of vision-logic; the cyber zone enables the transference of his transrational knowledge and consciousness, as is evident in his active presence on Facebook and social media and the web. The mere inclusion of his photograph on Facebook on June 21, 2019, almost eight years after his death, drew over 8,000 hits in 24 hours, intimating this cyber reach over time (see Figure 13.1).


While cybernetics permits a temporal/spatial examination of the Commanda discourse, particularly in digital social media, cybercartography opens doors to the creation of a living archive in a digital atlas platform. Taylor had introduced the term cybercartography at the 1997 International Cartographic Conference in Stockholm to describe the transformative innovations taking place in the field, stating, “Cybercartography will see cartography applied to a much wider range of topics than has traditionally been the case [...] It will also utilize an increasing range of emerging media forms and telecommunications networks such as the Internet and the World Wide Web. It will be multidimensional cartography using multimedia formats and is more likely to be an integral part of an information package than a stand-alone product. Cybercartography will also be highly interactive and engage the user in new ways. In organizational terms, it will see new partnerships being created between national mapping organizations, the private sector and educational institutions and the products of cybercartography are likely to be compiled by individuals from very different disciplines and professional perspectives working together.”21 By 2003, Taylor had articulated cybercartographv as “the organization, presentation, analysis and communication of spatially referenced information on a wide range of topics of interest and use to society in an interactive, dynamic, multimedia, multi-sensory format, with the use of multimedia and multimodal interfaces.”22 In 2019, cybercartography was redefined as “... a complex, holistic, user centred process which applies location-based technologies to the analysis of all types of topics of interest to

William Commanda (1913-2011) Facebook screenshot 2019. Source

Figure 13.1 William Commanda (1913-2011) Facebook screenshot 2019. Source: Thumbadoo.

society and the presentation of the results in innovative ways through cybercarto- graphic atlases. A cybercartographic atlas is a metaphor for all kinds of qualitative and quantitative information linked by location and displayed in innovative, interactive multimodal and multisensory formats.”23

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