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)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

August 2018


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

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.


"The book's well-sourced revisionist examination of history through the eyes of both Euro- and Native Americans, and the influence of indigenous knowledge on cartography, is compelling, and thus it is a worthy addition to any historical examination of the Trans-Mississippi West."—Brian Croft, Nebraska History

"By examining the motives and process of mapmaking, Bernstein restores historical agency to the Pawnee and other tribes."—R. Dorman, Choice

"Bernstein's interesting and scholarly study discusses how the westward movement made maps necessary administrative mechanisms."—Lynn Bueling, Roundup Magazine

"David Bernstein's How the West Was Drawn offers an important reassessment of the cartographic history of the American West, exploring how Plains Indians—specifically, Iowas, Pawnees, and Lakotas participated in the mapping and remapping of the region in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries."—Alessandra Link, Environmental History

"Throughout the volume, Bernstein not only makes a convincing argument, but he also corrects some of the problematic ideas scholars have advanced or embraced over the years. This is a well-researched book. The author draws from manuscript sources at the Kansas Historical Society, the Missouri History Museum, the National Archives, and the Newberry Library, among other repositories, not to mention newspapers, government documents, Native American records, and other published primary sources. . . . In addition, it would be a mistake not to mention and commend the book’s excellent selection of 46 map images. . . . Bernstein does an excellent job integrating these maps into his analysis and the University of Nebraska Press should be commended for their investment in this incredible level of illustration. This is a book that will work well in graduate seminars on Native American history, the history of the antebellum U.S., the history of cartography, and colonialism. Anyone interested in space and place in the North America would do well to read this book."—Evan Rothera, Reviews in History

"Bernstein provides important tools for thinking about maps in complex ways. He carefully draws attention to the multifaceted processes and power involved in their construction, which, in turn, opens up many avenues for understanding how and why U.S. expansion developed as it did."—Rebekah M. K. Mergenthal, Annals of Iowa

“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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