Lunaapahkiing Princeton Timetree by Center for Digital Humanities at Princeton University

The Lunaapahkiing Princeton Timetree presents the intertwined relations between the Native peoples of Lunaapahkiing and Princeton University, established on its present unceded Native land in 1756. The term “timetree” was coined for this project by Rebecca Sutton Koeser to indicate the open-ended, non-linear structure of the data visualization, in contrast to a strictly linear timeline. Events are represented by leaves, which are organized into five different branches along specific themes: Lands + Waters, Communities, the University, Removals, and Resistance + Resurgence. Leaves are also categorized by tags, which make connections across the branches. The timetree reveals centuries of Native and settler relations entangled in deception and dispossession, as well as affinities, alliances, and the continuing agency of Lenape peoples (or Lunaapeew) as caretakers of their languages, lands, and cultural futures.
The Lunaapahkiing Princeton Timetree is based on a student project for an “Indigenous Literatures” course in 2021. Jiyoun Roh ’24 used “the form of a tree as a representation of time” to show Princeton’s Indigenous history in “direct contrast to the linear structure of the university timeline” presented as Princeton’s official history. Roh’s concept was so compelling that multiple campus groups showed interest in developing it into a public visualization.
We used Roh’s project as a starting point for content and concept. Significant additional research and content work has been done to revise,expand, and augment those materials with images and links to external resources, such as digitized primary documents and historic maps. This project is in community with the Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative at Princeton and has benefited significantly from feedback and guidance from Lunaape communities, in particular the Munsee-Delaware Nation in Ontario, language keepers from other communities, and participants at the Munsee Language and History Symposia in 2021, 2022, and 2023. The timetree uses Munsee spelling and terms for the people (Lunaapew) and the land (Lunaapahkiing).
The project is implemented as a Hugo static site with a custom theme. Site navigation and some visual designs were created in Figma as low and high fidelity mockups for desktop and mobile. The data visualization is implemented with JavaScript and d3.j interactivity, layout, and visuals. The leaves are organized into a network positioned vertically by time period and horizontally by branch using a force layout with custom force.. Branches are drawn using d3.js curves to connect the leaves along each branch. The alignment is not strictly sequential, and both the layout and the shapes of the leaves are drawn somewhat randomly ; the timetree invites exploration as a generative interface that is never exactly the same.
The timetree was implemented with a responsive design and an alternate layout for mobile devices to make it engaging on smaller screens. We followed WAI-ARIA guidelines to make the timetree keyboard navigable, to offer vision impaired users a comparable experience of exploring leaves by branch and tag.
The 1.0 version was released in June 2023; we’ve been gathering feedback from Lunaape community members before publicizing the project more widely.