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part 2 The Rise and Fall of “Indian Country” 4 / The Cultural Construction of “Indian Country” During the first half of the nineteenth century, Indians dictated the geopolitics of the trans-Missouri West. Although Indians and Americans both debated the possibility of a permanent Indian territory, and Euro-Americans settled past the Mississippi River, Native people were the final arbiters of the geopolitics of the Plains. As a result, Indians were inscribed in cartographic depictions of the western half of the continent. Many commercially printed maps, for example, took Lewis and Clark’s Track, across the Western Portion of North America from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean (1814) as their starting point.1 Exemplifying Indians’ cartographic presence, it placed “4,000 souls” of the “Great Pawnee and Republican Vill[age]” on the south side of the Platte River. As the century wore on, the maelstrom of Indian villages drawn on maps such as Lewis and Clark’s were simplified to depict larger (and often more imposing) tribally controlled areas. As the United States made treaties with Indian groups, Americans helped consolidate and circumscribe tribal identities and their concomitant territorial claims.2 Yet, this fact does not fully explain why the Indian cartographic presence in the trans-Missouri West increased in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. This shift is demonstrated by the growth of depictions of “Indian Territory” in the land immediately west of the Missouri River.3 Even as the possibility of an organized political territory faded, the cartographic presence of Indians continued to increase. In 1844, the Democratic Review—the same publication in which John L. O’Sullivan would map 20. Detail of Map of Lewis and Clark’s Track, Across the Western Portion of North America. Courtesy of David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. map 21. Map accompanying an article in the 1844 Democratic Review defining the trans-Missouri West as “Indian Territory.” As with Isaac McCoy’s original on which this map is based, the compass rose points to the right side of the page to indicate north. the cultural construction of “indian country” / 121 coin the term “Manifest Destiny” the following year—printed a map that defined the trans-Missouri West as Indian Territory.4 Why would this ardently expansionist newspaper print a map that firmly inscribed Indians as an obstacle to the opening of the West to Euro-American settlement? The same question could be asked of William Woodbridge’s popular 1844 textbook, Modern School Geography. In this book, “Indian Territory ” dominates the center of map, filling the space from the Missouri River in the north to the Red River in the south, and from the western boundary of Missouri in the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west. This strong assertion of Indian presence is curious, especially considering another Woodbridge map that appeared in his 1826 school atlas and was reprinted in new editions for more than a decade. In his Moral and Political Chart of the Inhabited World, Woodbridge color-coded parts of the globe to show their level of civilization. The lightest shades indicated areas that were “civilized,” and the darkest hatching showed the “savage” areas. The “unsubdued” region of North America was larger than that of any other continent.5 Considering his implicit endorsement of enlightened expansion, why would Woodbridge give credence to a geopolitical construction that was not even formally recognized? Why not simply ignore Indians? map 22. Map from William C. Woodbridge, Modern School Geography (Hartford ct: Belknap and Hamersley, 1844). map 23. Map and detail of William C. Woodbridge, Moral and Political Chart of the World (1828). Courtesy of David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. 124 / the rise and fall of “indian country” One answer is that for American politicians unsure about the United States’ standing in the world, solving the “Indian Problem” would prove its credentials as a truly enlightened country. By the middle of the 1820s, the American idea of a permanent area set aside for all Native people had become the most popular solution to the “Indian Problem.” Most Americans considered the existing policy of incorporating Indians into American society to be a failure.6 Rather than integration through “civilizing,” policy makers began to view separation as the most feasible solution. In 1817, the Committee on Public Lands suggested a bounded space into which all Indians could be placed.7 In 1824, President James Monroe called for more specificity and “some well digested plan” that would establish a territory for Indians “between the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781496208019
Related ISBN
9780803249301
MARC Record
OCLC
1038068511
Pages
402
Launched on MUSE
2018-06-13
Language
English
Open Access
No
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