Map Monday: Treaty Lands of the Upper Midwest

Here’s a good map from a recently launched web project called The Ways, which explores the history of Native American nations, treaties, cultures and stories, put together by some folks in Wisconsin.

Check out this historic map of treaty rights:


Here’s the description of treaty negotiations from the site:

Beginning in the early nineteenth century, the United States government began negotiating treaties with Great Lakes Nations in order to acquire the rich natural resources—timber, minerals, and prairie (for agriculture)—of these lands to be ceded. Specifically, the U. S. government wanted Ho-Chunk lands for lead and farmland; Ojibwe lands for timber and copper; Dakota lands for timber; Menominee lands for timber and farmland; and Potawatomi lands for farmland and natural harbors.

The treaty negotiations were inherently one-sided. Most significantly, the government officials knew that the Native Peoples lacked or understood little English. The Native Peoples also had very different concepts of land ownership. Most Indian Nations believed that land was a gift from the Creator. Although people could use and even control the land and its resources, the land itself could not be owned, bought, or sold. Tribal Peoples therefore often believed that they were only signing away access, not ownership, to the treaty lands. Such misunderstandings colored the future relationship of Natives and non-Natives in the region.

You can learn more at the rich page. I’m really interested by Native American history, and recoil every time I hear an historical narrative that begins with the arrival of Europeans. For example, it’s interesting to note how the Dakota / Ojibwe border runs through Minnesota, just North of the Twin Cities. I feel like Minnesota could learn a lot about itself by giving more due to our rich past.

(PS. As I’m learning by reading this book, those “borders” were quite contested and shifted based on the siting of various Native American villages over time.)

Bill Lindeke

About Bill Lindeke

Pronouns: he/him

Bill Lindeke has writing blogging about sidewalks and cities since 2005, ever since he read Jane Jacobs. He is a lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota Geography Department, the Cityscape columnist at Minnpost, and has written multiple books on local urban history. He was born in Minneapolis, but has spent most of his time in St Paul. Check out Twitter @BillLindeke or on Facebook.