The Power of Maps – Writing 101

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.


Image: American Indian Reservations & Alaska Native Villages

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.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

22 thoughts on “The Power of Maps – Writing 101

    1. I appreciate your comments a great deal, Jen. History has shaped the present, just as the present will shape the future. It’s such an important lesson that is rarely if ever taught in school.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Oh, Carol, I’ve always hated what the white man did to the Native Americans. That and what they did by making slaves of the Africans are both horrendous crimes against humanity and I’m ashamed that it happened. I’m a patriot through and through but I would never have condoned such things and hope that none of my family was involved in such things. Hugs, N 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate your thoughtful comments, Natalie. None of us is responsible for the past, only for the actions we take to create a more humane present. And your ever-beautiful and inspiring posts are a source of hope and healing ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comments, Rosema. I wonder if the indigenous peoples of India have similar memories or views about the years of British occupation and domination?


  2. As I watched the video, I thought, just like a disease spreading in the body, a cancer quickly killing off the healthy cells as it spreads!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent post, Carol. This is the basic story of capitalism – driving people off communal lands and denying them the means of subsistence. All in the name of private property and profit.

    Liked by 2 people

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