How the West Was Drawn

How the West Was Drawn

Mapping, Indians, and the Construction of the Trans-Mississippi West

David Bernstein

Borderlands and Transcultural Studies Series

324 pages
8 figures, 46 maps, index


August 2018


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

August 2018


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

August 2018


$65.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

How the West Was Drawn explores the geographic and historical experiences of the Pawnees, the Iowas, and the Lakotas during the European and American contest for imperial control of the Great Plains during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. David Bernstein argues that the American West was a collaborative construction between Native peoples and Euro-American empires that developed cartographic processes and culturally specific maps, which in turn reflected encounter and conflict between settler states and indigenous peoples.

Bernstein explores the cartographic creation of the Trans-Mississippi West through an interdisciplinary methodology in geography and history. He shows how the Pawnees and the Iowas—wedged between powerful Osages, Sioux, the horse- and captive-rich Comanche Empire, French fur traders, Spanish merchants, and American Indian agents and explorers—devised strategies of survivance and diplomacy to retain autonomy during this era. The Pawnees and the Iowas developed a strategy of cartographic resistance to predations by both Euro-American imperial powers and strong indigenous empires, navigating the volatile and rapidly changing world of the Great Plains by brokering their spatial and territorial knowledge either to stronger indigenous nations or to much weaker and conquerable American and European powers.

How the West Was Drawn is a revisionist and interdisciplinary understanding of the global imperial contest for North America’s Great Plains that illuminates in fine detail the strategies of survival of the Pawnees, the Iowas, and the Lakotas amid accommodation to predatory Euro-American and Native empires.      


Author Bio

David Bernstein is a visiting assistant professor of history at Denison University.


“A fascinating analysis of the factors that contributed to the creation of maps of the Trans-Mississippi West in the nineteenth century. The focus on tribal contributions to this process makes the subject even more worthy of analysis. This book has the potential to alter significantly the way we view the maps resulting from treaties, exploratory expeditions, and other projects.”—John P. Bowes, professor of history at Eastern Kentucky University and author of Land Too Good for Indians: Northern Indian Removal

“In this exemplary spatial history Bernstein historicizes the mapping and colonization of what became the American West. . . . The result is a rich, compelling, and detailed history of the ‘drawing’ of the West, one that simultaneously centers Native actors and exposes the subtle and insidious ways through which dispossession and colonization occurred.”—Raymond Craib, associate professor of history at Cornell University and author of Cartographic Mexico: A History of State Fixations and Fugitive Landscapes

“Bernstein’s narrative is engaging and meticulously researched, with keen insight into how Native peoples used Euro-American mapping practices as a ‘viable geopolitical option’ to defend their western interests.”—Patrick Bottiger, assistant professor of history at Kenyon College and author of Borderland of Fear: Vincennes, Prophetstown, and the Invasion of the Miami Homeland

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Section 1: Living in Indian Country
1.  Construction Indian Country
2. Sharitarish and the Possibility of Treaties
3  Non-Participatory Mapping
Section 2: The Rise and Fall of “Indian Country”
4. The Cultural Construction of “Indian Country”
5.  Science and the Destruction of “Indian Country”
Section 3:  Reclaiming Indian Country
6. The Metaphysics of Indian Naming


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