Bounding Iroquoia: Early Modern Cartography and Indigenous Nationhood

Friday, January 5, 2018: 3:30 PM
Virginia Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Scott Manning Stevens, Syracuse University
“Bounding Iroquoia: Early Modern Cartography and Indigenous Nationhood” considers the Iroquois Confederacy, as an indigenous native polity, and its relationship to the development of European cartography in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I review historiographic studies arguing for the importance of the evolving definition of the nation state after the Peace of Westphalia (1648), and its manifestations on printed maps of the early modern era, in relationship to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy of the same period. I consider the possible cartographic expressions of Indigenous sovereignty in the early modern period, as evidenced on North American colonial maps, which designated boundaries between Indigenous territories, such as Iroquoia, and European colonies. Furthermore, I will argue that such graphic renderings occur because of on-going native military and political resistance in this period, and that, when sustained, it made sense to demarcate Indigenous territories in a manner similar to European political entities on early modern maps. The result of these demarcations is a cartographic acknowledgment of the actuality of Indigenous nations. While most colonial written histories and descriptions refuse to recognize Native nations, as such, we can identify several maps from this same period in which boundaries and labels acknowledge Indigenous hegemony over specific territories. Indigenous nations who were able to resist European conquest for a sustained period were frequently recognized as nations through formal treaty making in the eighteenth century but arguably the first expression of such recognition lies in the rise of modern cartography and printed atlases.
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