2016 Sunset Report

OLG & DCRT Strategic Plan
2020-21 through 2024-25


Did you know?
Introduction Section 1:
Cultural Assumption
Section 2:
Ethnographic Record
Section 3:
Section 4:
Political Instrument
Section 5:
Section 6:
Art & Craft
Section 7:
Biographies of Mapmakers & Artists Bibliography

Mapmaking, like art, was common to all prehistoric cultures. Because they did not have paper, Native Americans drew maps on the ground, in the snow, in the ashes of a campfire with a stick or twig, or on a scrap of animal skin or a piece of bone. Indigenous mapmakers also imparted geographical information to European cartographers. The Native American maps included in this exhibit, visual documents from an oral culture, offer glimpses of the ways they perceived and experienced North America before and immediately after the European encounter.

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A Map Describing the Situation of the several Nations of Indians between South Carolina and the Massisipi
Copyed from a Draught Drawn upon a Deer Skin by an Indian Cacique and Presented to Francis Nicholson Esqr. Governour of Carolina
Unidentified Chickasaw mapmaker
c. 1723
This map depicts an area encompassing approximately 700,000 square miles from Texas to New York. Because several of the notations are from the western Muskogean language, it is believed that a Chickasaw drew this map and presented it to Nicholson on behalf of the Chickasaws. Several paths and river routes lead from the Chickasaw Nation, and several tribes allied with the French (F) surround the Chickasaws. It is likely the Chickasaws wished to illustrate their predicament to the English, their allies against the French. The original copy, drawn on deerskin-shaped paper, no longer exists.

Courtesy British Public Record Office, Kew


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An Indian Map of the Different Tribes that Inhabit on the East & West Side of the Rocky Mountains with all the rivers & other remarkbl. places, also the number of Tents, etc.
Ac ko mok ki (the Feathers), mapmaker
Copied by Peter Fidler
February 7, 1801
Ac ko mok ki, a Blackfoot Indian chief, drew this map for Peter Fidler, postmaster and surveyor for the Hudson's Bay Company, 1788 1822. Because Ac ko mok ki probably sketched the original map on the ground or in the snow, Fidler carefully copied and annotated this information into his notebook, which is reproduced here. Oriented with west at the top, this map detailed for the first time the drainage network of the Missouri River and provided new information about the location and width of the Rocky Mountains (seen at the top of the map as a double-lined feature) and the Indian tribes living in the area. Ac ko mok ki surveyed and described to Fidler the adjacent plains for a distance of some 500 miles. His information depicted areas theretofore not explored by Europeans.

Courtesy Hudson's Bay Company Archives, Provincial Archives of Manitoba This image may not be reproduced without the permission of the Hudson's Bay Company Archives


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A Map Exhibiting all the Discoveries in the Interior Part of North America (Detail)
Aaron N. Arrowsmith, mapmaker
London, 1802
Upon the transfer of the Louisiana territory to the United States, President Thomas Jefferson chose Captain Meriwether Lewis to head an expedition to explore the area between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean. When Aaron Arrowsmith reissued a 1795 map of North America in 1802 he incorporated most of the details contained in Ac ko mok ki's map. Lewis and William Clark used this new edition to plan and execute their expedition.

Courtesy Edward E. Ayer Collection, The Newberry Library, Chicago
This image is not to be reproduced without the permission of the Newberry Library, Chicago


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Tabula Novarum insularum, quas diversis respectibus Occidentales & Indianas vocant
[Map of the New Islands Named by Various Sources the West and the Indies]

From Cosmography
Sebastian Münster, mapmaker
Basle, 1550
This woodcut map, first published in 1538, is the earliest known depiction of only North and South America as two land masses joined together and distinct from other continents. Versions of this map appeared in Latin, French, and other languages, but in the German edition shown here only the name Die Nüw Welt (the New World) has been translated. By implication North America is divided between France (Francisca) to the north and Spain (Terra Florida) to the south. Portugal's flag flies just off the African coast.

Giovanni da Verrazano's accounts of the New World provided much of the cartographic detail included in this map, while the West Coast geography was taken from Marco Polo's description of Eastern Asia. Note that Japan, here named Zipangri, is placed just off the west coast of North America.

Decorative elements adorning maps during the age of exploration reflected Old World assumptions regarding the nature of New World inhabitants. An engraver's ornamentation choice often determined the public's notion of other peoples. Cannibalistic South Americans are depicted here in the area of Brazil; just beneath this cartouche is an area labeled "Region of Giants" (Regio Gigantum).

The large ship in the Pacific, usually identified as that of Magellan, bears little resemblance to late fifteenth-century sailing vessels. Magellan's Victoria probably had three masts but Münster depicted a single-masted type more typical of ships plying northern European waters during the fourteenth century. The northern coast of South America bears the legend abundae auro ac margaritis (abundant gold and pearls). Also note the isthmus of North Carolina, the result of Verrazano's miscomprehension of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. For many years after this map's publication early explorers looked for passage through the continent based on this faulty notion.

Gift of the Friends of the Cabildo


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Kaart van Noord America voor zoo verre dezelve betrekking heeft tot de Engelsche Bezittingen
[Map of North America Insofar as It Pertains to the English Possessions]

From Noord America Attributed to Isaak Tirion
R[einer] Boitet, publisher
Delft, 1746
This Dutch map is a fine example of the European penchant for cartographically claiming huge swaths of land on the North American continent. Territory east and south of Hudson Bay was claimed in the name of France (Vrankryk) and Britain (Britannie). Central America was labeled Nieuw Spanje (New Spain). Although many Western place-names along the eastern seaboard are identified, no Indian tribes are located, thereby discounting the existence of North America's indigenous populations and their claims to the land.

Loaned by Dr. and Mrs. E. Ralph Lupin