Native Land Search: A Free Plugin for WordPress Sites

Those of us who live in the Americas and Oceania are almost certainly living on Native and Indigenous homelands. Those of us who are not ourselves Native or Indigenous probably have little idea whose. Knowing who lost their homes and lives in the creation of the countries we now call home has always been crucial, and only becomes more critical as the ongoing impact of violent colonization and severity of the climate crisis become clearer and clearer.

Native Land Digital maintains extensive maps of Native and Indigenous homelands and communities worldwide. Now WordPress sites can embed a search tool using their data into any post or page with a free plugin.

In just about every story from Pipe Wrench‘s third issue, you’ll see this search box:

Pipe Wrench is built with WordPress, and we put that search into our stories using a Native Land Search block created for us by developer Alex Gustafson.  But it’s not our Native Land Search block — it’s yours, too. The plugin is available for free, open source and under the General Public License, for anyone to use and adapt it.

What is the Native Land Search plugin?

The Native Lands Search plugin pulls data from the maps at, which strives to “map Indigenous lands in a way that changes, challenges, and improves the way people see the history of their countries and peoples.” Readers can search for an address or landmark to see which Native and Indigenous communities call a particular location home, then click on search results to learn what languages those communities speak and what treaties are in effect with them.

The plugin adds a new block to the WordPress block editor so you can put a Native Land search bar on any post or page. All kinds of sites — magazine, newspaper, personal blog, academic hub, nonprofit — can use the block to add depth to all kinds of content involving Indigenous groups. #LandBack, residential schools, climate change, general history — offering this search tool helps non-indigenous folks uncover and understand vital histories with ongoing ramifications.

How to get and use the plugin

You’ll need two things: the plugin itself, and a Google Geocoding API key. 

The plugin is free and available in the plugin repository, so you can head to the Plugins tab of your dashboard, click “Add new,” and search for “Native Lands.” Once you’ve added and activated the plugin, navigate to Settings > Native Lands in your dashboard and paste your Google API key into the provided field. (Follow these instructions to create a Google Geocoding API key.)

Now when you’re editing a post or page, you’ll see options for Native Lands Search (which adds centered and wide-width blocks) and Native Lands Aside (to add a right or left-aligned block):

You can change the text right in the editor, and customize the background: put the Native Lands Search block into a Group block to add a background color and help the search tool pop. Or to add a background image like we did, add a Cover block, choose a background image (we used a map with colored overlays to match each story), and put the Native Lands Search block inside the group block. Et voilà:

Pipe Wrench was always meant to be more than nonfiction writing. Our first few  issues featured playlists, poems, comics, and more, and with this issue, we saw our first tech contributor. We love what this embedded search tool adds to our stories, and we hope it’ll be useful for the big chunk of the web that runs on WordPress.