In How the West Was Drawn, historian David Bernstein argues that indigenous peoples were central to the “cartographic construction” (10) of the American West. Challenging the view that American cartographers drew the West by themselves, Bernstein shows how Indians shaped American cartography through their own mapping and naming practices. His work invites scholars to recognize a “syncretic” (6) history of western cartography.

Bernstein focuses on the antebellum trans-Missouri West, a region that includes the present-day states of Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska. As he explains, this region became a main arena for Indian Removal and the establishment of Indian Territory. It is also a homeland for Pawnee, Iowa, Osage, and Lakota peoples. Bernstein addresses their role in the drawing of the West through close readings of individual maps. The first chapter examines maps by the Pawnee leader Sharitarish and Iowa leader Notchininga....

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