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part 3 Reclaiming Indian Country 6 / The Metaphysics of Indian Naming In 1855, Bvt. Brig. Gen. William Harney was sent on an expedition “against the Sioux Indians for the purpose of chastising them,” for killing Lieutenant Grattan and 29 men of the Sixth infantry the previous year. According to historian Jeffrey Ostler, Grattan had taken “twentynine men, two howitzers and a drunk interpreter” to demand the arrest of a Brulé ox thief. Harney now faced Brulé chief Little Thunder, one of the perpetrators of what American papers were calling the “Grattan Massacre.” Despite Little Thunder’s declarations that he “did not want to fight” and had done “all he could for peace,” the general showed little patience for negotiations. “[I] do not mind what you say more than a barking prairie dog,” Harney spat. He had “not come out here for nothing ” and the chief should “go and tell his young men they must fight.”1 Harney was accompanied by Gouverneur Kemble Warren, a young lieutenant from the Corps of Topographical Engineers. It is through Warren that we know the horrors Harney and his men inflicted at Ash Creek. There is perhaps no better counterpoint to the narrative of objective , scientific conquest that John Frémont created in his Memoirs than the journal of his fellow topographer Gouverneur Warren in 1855: “The sight on top of the hill was heart-wrenching. Wounded women and children crying and moaning, horribly mangled by the bullets. . . . [One] cried so much and was continually turning her babe and singing the most distressing tones. . . . I had endeavored to take a topographical sketch of the scene but the calls of humanity prevented my doing much.”2 Intended to make the Lakotas submissive, the Ash Creek attack actually 198 / reclaiming indian country had the opposite effect, compelling many Lakotas to harden their stance against the Americans. Crazy Horse, who had been living with Little Thunder’s people, returned from a hunt to find the destruction, and he quickly pledged to fight the United States for the rest of his life.3 The severity of the slaughter and the inhumane treatment of the Lakotas horrified Warren, who was “disgusted with the tales of valor in the field, for there were but few who killed anything but a flying foe.” Over the next few years, he would repeatedly articulate his ambivalence about—and sometimes outright criticism of—his role in the dispossession of the region’s inhabitants. After returning from an expedition in Dacotah Territory, Warren wrote, “I sympathize with them in their desperation and almost feel guilty of a crime in being a pioneer to the white men who will . . . drive the red man from their last patch of hunting ground.” In another report, he explained that the present U.S. policy of pushing Indian groups farther west—where they would have no choice but to fight groups already living there—was “the best calculated that could be devised for exterminating the Indian.”4 Warren’s criticism of U.S. policy—and his ambivalence about being one of its agents—shows the emotions of one army officer at the heart of American colonialism. This also helps to explain Warren’s most lasting legacy: the Map of the Territory of the United States from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean. Warren’s General Map inscribed the contestation and negotiation that actually produced the states of South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas onto what one cartographic historian at the Library of Congress calls the “most important map of the American West prior to the Civil War.”5 Although cartographic scholars refer to his masterwork as the General Map, Warren called it the “Indian map,” for obvious reasons. In what he considered the authoritative printing, a colorful patchwork covers the western United States, indicating which tribe(s) controlled which territory . With the exception of a few relocated groups along the Missouri, these regions did not correspond with treaties or any formal claims. Instead, they depicted the current geopolitical situation by acknowledging Indian control of the trans-Missouri West.6 While other versions of Warren’s map were printed, both Warren and A. A. Humphreys, the head of the Topographical Bureau, believed that the two thousand fourcolor maps depicting the “Indian boundaries” were “much the best.”7 In the historical records, Warren never explained why he so strongly inscribed Indian presence on a map created ostensibly to find the best transcontinental railroad route. Perhaps this map assuaged some of the the metaphysics of...


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