Na’hjeNing’e’s Rivers Indigenous Maps, Diplomacy, and the Writing of Ioway Space
Parole chiave:Native American; cartography; Indian diplomacy; settler colonialism; indigenous sovereignty; Ioway history
This essay examines an indigenous map (1837) of the Missouri and
Mississippi river valleys, which offers an alternative to the territorial mappings of US
empire in the era of Indian removal. The map was presented by the Ioway delegate
Na’hje Ning’e during an intertribal treaty council in Washington in 1837 and depicts
the Ioway Nation’s historical occupation of large areas in the Mississippi River Valley.
Although the American treaty commissioners ultimately dismissed the map's historical
argument and the Ioway's claims, its visual presentation of rivers and indigenous
migrations routes marked an alternative to US territorial mappings of Indian country.
Understanding the Mississippi River Valley as a site of territorial contestation,
Na’hjeNing’e’s visual rhetoric took Ioway migrations along these waterways seriously
as a basis for indigenous land claims and sovereignty, presenting an alternative to the
settler state’s mappings of Native space. At the same time, the imbalance of power
relations within American bureaucratic networks meant that the map is an example of
disrespected literature: a form of indigenous writing that was legible within colonial
settings, but nevertheless disregarded because it did not align with settler-colonial
projects of indigenous dispossession. By considering the diplomatic calculations
behind it, this essay argues that Na’hjeNing’e’s map asserted a representation of Ioway
sovereignty, but also reveals the bounds on that sovereignty at a moment when
removal policy and settler expansion profoundly reshaped the social and political
place of Indian nations in North America.