This study of the scientific production of nature at the Mississippi headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minnesota shows how national imaginings of geography were territorialized in the landscape and made available to an imagined national community. The exploration of the Mississippi, the establishment of its source, and the creation and maintenance of the headwaters landscape are all part of the geographic project of making the territory of the nation appear as a collection of timeless natural objects, a cultural process that accompanied the violent appropriation of indigenous land through which national territory was acquired. Because of the symbolic importance of the Mississippi River, its social construction as a "natural" object played a key role in constituting national territory, an imperialist project that simultaneously depended on and helped erase indigenous conceptions of and claims on the land. The landscape at Itasca State Park sustains this process and keeps it alive today.


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pp. 303-333
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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