Native American Maps and the History of Our Land
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 An absorbing exploration of Native American ways of mapping the land. Warhus, a museum curator, unfolds an account that is at once full of scientific complexities and of human interest. In looking at Native American maps, he invites the reader to consider the detailed knowledge of ``geography, political allegiances, and economic relations'' reflected in them, knowledge largely destroyed in the course of conquest. In case study after case study, he shows how maps made on buffalo skins, rocks, birch bark, and paper, maps that claimed territorial rights and explained treaties with other Indian nations, were simply ignored; many of those maps wound up in the drawing rooms and attics of the conquerors. Some eventually came to rest in museum collections. Warhus has been diligent in hunting these maps out, and we should be glad of it, for many of them are astonishingly detailed--one, made by an Iowa Indian in the mid-1850s, shows the tributaries of the Mississippi River nearly as well as any modern chart, while another, made by one of the last members of the Beothuck people of Newfoundland, is an extraordinary cultural atlas of the northern Atlantic seaboard at the time of the European arrival. To his account of the making of these maps Warhus adds a rich anecdotal history, telling the stories of the kidnaped Indian Miguel, forced to make maps of the southern Plains for the Spanish conquistadors, and of other Native Americans whose knowledge of the countryside was used to the invaders' advantage. Warhus closes his book with a look at modern efforts by the Hopi, Zuni, and other peoples to combine traditional geographies with modern mapmaking techniques, efforts that may be fruitful in pressing indigenous claims to lost territory. This richly illustrated work is a valuable contribution to Native American studies. (90 color and b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-15054-7
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1997