Interactive map by University of Georgia historian shows U.S. appropriation of over 1.5 billion acres Indigenous land, 1776-1887
This interactive map, produced by University of Georgia historian Claudio Saunt to accompany his new book West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776, offers a time-lapse vision of the transfer of Indian land between 1776 and 1887. As blue “Indian homelands” disappear, small red areas appear, indicating the establishment of reservations. (Above is a GIF of the map’s time-lapse display; visit the map’s page to play with its features.)
The project’s source data is a set of maps produced in 1899 by the Bureau of American Ethnology. The B.A.E. was a research unit of the Smithsonian that published and collected anthropological, archaeological, and linguistic research on the culture of North American Indians, as the nineteenth century drew to a close.
While the time-lapse function is the most visually impressive aspect of this interactive, the “source map” option (available on the map’s site) offers a deep level of detail. By selecting a source map, and then zooming in to the state you’ve selected, you can see details of the map used to generate that section of the interactive. A pop-up box tells you which Native nation was resident on the land, and the date of the treaty or executive order that transferred the area to the government, as well as offering external links to descriptions of the treaty and of the tract of land.
In the site’s “About” section (reachable by clicking on the question mark), Saunt is careful to point out that the westward-moving boundaries could sometimes be vague. Asked for an example, he pointed me to the 1791 treaty with the Cherokee that ceded the land where present-day Knoxville, Tenn. stands. The treaty’s language pointed to landmarks like “the mouth of Duck river,” a broad approach that left a lot of room for creative implementation. When dealing with semi-nomadic tribes, Saunt added, negotiators sometimes designated a small reservation, “rather than spelling out the boundaries of the cession.” Read more…
Changing Perceptions and Making Connections—One Map at a Time
In the beginning, there were no lines.
Prior to 1492, North America was a vast wilderness: an expanse of rolling hills, open plains and meandering rivers. There were no state boundaries, no borders between countries and no private property.
That’s what Aaron Carapella captures in his Tribal Nations Maps, the only known maps that show what Turtle Island looked like before European contact.
“There are a lot of horrible maps out there that stereotype Native Americans or provide misinformation,” said Carapella, who lives in Stigler, Oklahoma. “We need something to combat that. We need maps that aren’t divided by modern countries and political borders, that show where tribes were and what they were called.”
The original Tribal Nations Map, released in 2012, is a poster-sized replica of the United States, minus the state lines. Roughly 590 Native nations are spread across the map, identified by their indigenous names, traditional locations and, when possible, historic images.
Carapella, who is of Cherokee descent, spent 14 years researching and creating his first map. But the project began years earlier when Carapella, now 35, was a teenager exploring his own heritage and looking for a map of tribes that he could hang on his bedroom wall.
“I never really found any good maps that were comprehensive in any way,” he said. “So I thought, why don’t I make my own? I bought four poster boards, taped them together and put on all the tribes that I knew.”
Carapella got serious about his project when he realized so many Native people had never seen themselves represented on a map. He traveled to 250 Native communities and contacted every cultural department in North America, he said.
“I’ve used books, military records, settler documentation and autobiographies,” he said. “On road trips, I get off the highway and visit tribal communities. Everywhere I go, I’m talking to people.”
The result was the map of the United States, of which Carapella has already sold 3,200 copies and given away an additional 900. The maps are in classrooms, cultural centers and museums across the country. They’re also in homes, on bedroom walls and in researches’ offices.
A documentarian is making a film about Carapella’s project, and Hayden-McNeil, a textbook publishing company, is printing two of the maps in an upcoming book.
But Carapella decided not to stop with a map of the United States. He created additional maps showing locations of tribes—along with their traditional names—in Canada, Alaska, Mexico and Central America. He also offers a map of the entire North American continent identifying more than 1,000 tribes—and without the “artificial boundaries” established later.
“My next map is of South America,” Carapella said. “I don’t think I’m going to stop until I’ve done all the maps in the Western Hemisphere.”
The maps are already changing public perception in places like Olympia, Washington, where the map of the entire North American continent hangs on a wall at the Diversity and Equity Center at South Puget Sound Community College. Program coordinator Karama Blackhorn said it serves as a conversation starter and a way to help indigenous students feel welcome.
“The biggest problem minority students find is they don’t have a sense of belonging; they don’t see themselves in faculty, staff or other students,” she said. “There’s no Native representation on campus except anthropological. This is a giant, visual art piece that reminds people to stop having that historical mentality.”
Blackhorn, a member of the Kahosadi tribe of Oregon, said she grew up with a map that had only 12 tribes on it. Carapella’s map is the most comprehensive representation of Native America she’s ever seen.
“My family is on the map now,” she said. “This is validating on so many levels.”
In a classroom on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona, history teacher William Stearns uses the maps to help students make connections to their own heritage.
“When you see students see these maps you can see the pride in them,” he said. “They stand taller, they understand. I believe that they have a clearer picture of their importance in this country.”
In an age where few places on the planet remain uncharted, cartography may seem an antiquated craft. But for Carapella, the project is an exploration not of geography, but rather history. In essence, he’s going back in time to capture a view of the land in its pre-colonial state.
For some, the maps are happy reminders of forgotten cultures. For others, they bring up difficult aspects of history or conflicted emotions. Any response, Carapella said, is evidence that he’s doing his job.
“It’s weird how many emotions get stirred up,” he said. “They are factual maps of where our nations were and what they were called, but they spark questions. They make people think in a different way.”
Carapella’s maps are available in various sizes and range in price from $49 to $300. Buy them online here.
Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/04/10/changing-perceptions-and-making-connections-one-map-time-159925