Carol A. Hand
I wonder how many people in the United States have thought about the portrayal of Native American land loss in the history and geography textbooks they studied in school? It seems a fitting time of the year to share the following maps as we head into the season when Native Americans are romanticized and exploited in other ways – Halloween costumes, Columbus Day parades and celebrations, and the myth of the first Thanksgiving feast.
The following animation shows the changing map of land ownership in what is now the United States. The first map in the following animation shows the remaining landholdings of Indigenous nations in 1784. Before Columbus’s arrival in the “new-to-him-and Europe” world, all of the land in the Americas was peopled by Indigenous nations.
Can you imagine the lives of Indigenous peoples as their homeland was overrun by those seeking land and resources to exploit? As they were attacked and driven from what had been their homelands for millennia, to new less desirable lands? And then, decades later, to lose many of the lands that had been promised as theirs forever in treaties between sovereign nations after the discovery of gold, coal, uranium, and oil on their reserved lands? All that is left now is shown on the map below, but even these holdings are threatened today.
Maps do tell stories, but often those in power choose which maps and stories to share. They have their reasons. The consequences of keeping ethnocide and dispossession invisible are evident today in the treatment of both the descendants of Indigenous peoples and those who are more recent arrivals.
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