Sometime between the first week of February and the last week of May, American Indian reservations disappeared from Google Maps!
Back in February 2011, I wrote a blog post titled Strange Tan Blotches in South Dakota: Indian Reservations in Online Maps about the unique look of Indian reservations in Google Maps.
They were featured on the maps as gray geometric shapes without any labeling whatsoever to identify them as reservations. The uninformed user could easily mistake them for military bases, oil fields, National Parks, or any other large features.
Notice in the screenshot below the off-color areas in the Dakotas, Montana, Arizona, and other states. Those gray blotches circled in red are Indian reservations as they used to appear in Google Maps.
Original Image Source: AppAppeal.com
Now use the Google Maps tool below to scroll around America and try and find those same gray areas.
They are gone!
It was bad enough that these reservations were unlabeled in the first instance but to drop them altogether from Google Maps takes it to a whole new level. Someone, somewhere at Google Inc. had to make the decision to remove the reservations. I can only wonder about their reasoning- relevancy, visual clarity, just too much clutter?
I understand Google Maps prefers brevity and a nice visual aesthetic over volumes of information but the removal of Indian reservations from its mapping service is more important than you think. Consider how many millions of Americans use Google Maps to find directions, locate a business, plan a vacation, or just browse American geography!
Now, a simple decision at the corporate headquarters will forever affect how millions of Americans understand (or don't understand) the geographic and social reality of this country.