Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Native American Nations Map is Beautiful But Invents a Fake Geography of American Indians

A beautiful map of lies.  Click to enlarge.  From Aaron Carpella's website.
Cartographer Aaron Carpella, who is of mixed White and Cherokee heritage  created the "Map of Our Tribal Nations: Our Own Names and Original Locations" which allegedly shows the locations American Indian nations with the native name being the primary label and the common English name for each nation showing in smaller, secondary text.

The map is beautiful but it shows a fictional American Indian geography which ignores history.  Aaron claims on the website and map:


With this claim Aaron is either showing ignorance or a malicious propaganda in order to show some sort of fiction pan-Native Americanism meant to paper over the population movements  displacements, ethnic cleansings,  and other all too common human crimes committed by American Indian nations on each other (Europeans, Asians, and Africans have been no different).

The big clue that something is wrong is that the map shows the Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota (Sioux) nations spread throughout South Dakota and Minnesota.  Before the mid-1700s the main tribe on the South Dakotan plains was the Sahnish (Arikara).  The nomadic Sioux nations used horses and savage warfare against the more settled Sahnish to the point the Sahnish were forced to flee into present-day North Dakota where the nation only survived by merging with the Numakaki (Mandan).  Meanwhile, my own personal travels in northern Wisconsin revealed countless monuments, memorials, museums, and texts that intrepreted the Dakota's displacement from the Lake Superior region by the Anishinabeg (Ojibwe/Chippewa) who were expanding west from the Great Lakes region.

Being a long time researcher of Great Plains and Woodlands Indians I also know these nations were built upon other previous cultures, and in certain cases civilization, which replaced each other before and right after the introduction of pox and horses (which arrived faster than the Europeans themselves).

The map also ignores Alaska.  Perhaps the invasion of Siberian Thule who destroyed the indigenous populations there would shatter the narrative of the map.  Hawaii is also missing though the debate of whether or not Native Hawaiians should be considered "Native Americans" is a hot debate topic on multiple levels.

America has a rich human history of at least 15,000 years.  I fully support studying and sharing knowledge about pre-European history of America.  However, we should embrace the real history with all its positives and negatives.  We should drop false pan-nativism and admit that population shifts did occur and that horrible war crimes occurred before the strongest of all tribes, English-speakers, dominated in the Northern continent.


Unknown said...

Being from the American West, I can see right away that there are two tribes missing from the Great Basin area of Utah and Nevada: Goshute and Southern Paiute.

pfly said...

The Comanche were part of the Shoshone people up in Idaho and Wyoming when the Spanish were taking over New Mexico. They adopted a horsed lifestyle and migrated south around 1700.

The Yamasee was not a "pre-contact tribe", rather a confederate of the remains of earlier tribes of various ethnicities that had been shattered by European contact. The same might possibly be true of the Guale, though I'm not sure anyone really knows for sure.

Peter Stanton said...

I took the most important element of this map not to be the placement of the different peoples, but rather the use of their autonyms. There is little justification today for calling indigenous peoples by names other than their own, (unless it is in the context of analyzing the names imposed on them), so I found the comprehensive or near-comprehensive display of autonyms to be an extremely refreshing development.

There do seem to be inaccuracies in terms of placement on this map, and those are worthy of being critiqued. At the same time, though, it's worth emphasizing how uncertain it can be to determine the location and extent of "pre-contact" (pre-15th century) indigenous societies, given the often incalculably calamitous effects of the epidemics that first appeared in the 15th century, many of them preceding interaction between Europeans and Natives.

I'm not really sure how you make the jump in this post to assuming that Carpella's map supports a "pan-nativist" narrative wherein indigenous groups did not fight or conquer one another. As far as I can tell, he made no statement like that at all, and merely made some historically inaccurate placements. Also, although I regularly protest the exclusion of Alaska from maps (being Alaskan myself), I'm not particularly troubled by it here, given that Alaska's incredible indigenous diversity would have substantially increased the work required for an already immense project.

Catholicgauze said...

Use of native names is indeed refreshing and does deserve praise.

However, I will go on the "pan-nativist" rant as it is a 'Siouxification' (check out my thesis posts) trend among native groups (reserve Siouxification?). Pan-nativists I have met tend to ignore, downplay, flat out deny inter-Indian wars and insist American Indian nations have always been where they were right before direct US interaction. One White/Kansa mixed woman hated a presentation I gave on South Dakota history because it challenged her beliefs about Sioux living in the Black Hills for hundreds if not thousands of years.

Thanks for the comment though. I find Alaskan history fascinating and wish I knew much more on it. Do you know any good books on native Alaskan history?

Peter Stanton said...

Ah, well I certainly do understand that when you've studied a subject in depth, deliberate ignorance on the part of others can be infuriating. That denial of historical movements and displacements does make some sense, though, insofar as indigenous groups today may feel pressure to establish land claims based on being there since "time immemorial."

I just finished writing a thesis on Tlingit history myself, which makes it difficult for me to recommend books, given some of the weaknesses in the literature. As far as I know, there is no comprehensive work on Alaska's indigenous history, but there are a few good surveys like Langdon's "The Native People of Alaska." If you're interested in the Tlingit, (one of the most powerful and influential groups in Alaska's history), the works of Sergei Kan and Nora and Richard Dauenhauer are all commendable.

Aaron Carapella said...

Dear Catholicgauze,

I am responding to yuor below quote: "With this claim Aaron is either showing ignorance or a malicious propaganda in order to show some sort of fiction pan-Native Americanism meant to paper over the population movements displacements, ethnic cleansings, and other all too common human crimes committed by American Indian nations on each other (Europeans, Asians, and Africans have been no different)."....

There is no way to create a stagnant map of Native America at any time in history that would live up to your expectations. Native Americans have had our history taught from other's perspectives since the coming of Europeans. Though you may disagree with tribes asserting their own histories-and decide to call it "malicious)- this map shows where tribes were roughly before the coming of the whiteman in each of their respective territories. Some articles have claimed that this is Pre-Columbian-their words, not mine. I say "pre-contact." I am guessing by your tone and misunderstanding that you are not a Native American, and unfortunately you have missed the whole point. Calling it "fake" is exactly why Natives need to own our own history. There are plenty of fake examples of our history taught by non-Natives which we can't get in a word edge-wise about. This map does not intend to say that tribes have never lived in other locations.You have shown by your critique a lack of understanding of how Native people think. Our correct approach would have been to address me personally with your issues about it, so that I could have responded with fairness.

Catholicgauze said...

Thanks for commenting.

My concern is with inaccuracies using your pre-contact definition. The first recorded Europeans in the Dakotas were La Verendrye brothers in 1743. They met the Arikara (Sahnish) people. The various Sioux nations where not were you have them placed.

Your racial blood inquiries are disturbing. Just because some American Indian blood flows through your veins does not give you a monopoly on Native history. (For the record, my mother was *the* attorney for a tribe. But that gives me no more right to comment on Native history & culture than some well read Italian, for example).

Finally your call for Natives to have their own history is off. Pan-Indianism ignores the rich diversity of the various nations. It's like saying Estonians and Portuguese fit in one European narrative. Utes are not Citizen Potawatomi are not Kaw are not Dakota are not Ojibwe are not Cree, etc.

It's great if you want to add a voice to an overall history narrative which focuses on the Truth. But your map represents a no place that never was.

Aaron Carapella said...

Dear Catholicgauze,

Having American Indian blood flowing through my veins DOES-in fact- give my opinion clout, not a monopoly. You addressed 1 nation out of almost 600 presented here where you find an inaccuracy. And you are basing that "inaccuracy" on a sole explorer who may have missed documenting a nomadic is true that some Sioux AGREE that they moved westward as a result of battles with the Ojibwe, but ALL Sioux agree that at least some of there people have lived around the Black Hills since time immemorial. That is THEIR stance, and so I placed them where they claim to be from. We cannot go back and document their exact migration patterns . This map is not perfect, and has had changes and additions even since the PDF on my website was last updated. By honing in on what you think is incorrect, you have called my whole project inaccurate. That is a blatant falsehood in itself.

Addressing another issue, I agree that some tribes did have brutal wars. I never said they didn't . I don't know how you assumed that my map intends to dismiss that reality. It is ALSO true though, that wholesale slaughter between tribes is much less evident than let's say in Europe during the Medieval. My tribe called stickball the "Little Brother of War"...because we played it against our enemies in most cases instead of outright battle. A few people died in each of these games, but not hundreds or thousands, which we started doing to each other at the request of colonial empires from Europe.

I sense an undertone of dismissiveness so I would hope that you keep your ears and heart open to receive my message: I do not claim that Natives are "holier than thou"...simply that this is our original homeland-our birthright-and the desire to maintain our culture and memories can be very daunting.

Catholicgauze said...

"but ALL Sioux agree that at least some of there people have lived around the Black Hills since time immemorial."

Ah, I see. The map is based on Red Earth, White Lies style myths. Okay. Sorry I insulted your dogma. All the archaeological digs, histories, and anthropological operations must be the work of misguided people. Last time science was this much of a pain was when I had to deal with Fundamentalist Mormons who were upset at National Geographic's work showing that Indians were not once White people from Israel.

Aaron Carapella said...

You really did a disservice by comparing me to you noticed on the actual map, I placed Dakota exactly where you say Sioux people come from. There is no way for you to know with 100% certainty that the entire Lakota Nation is "wrong" in their own knowledge of having roots in the Black Hills area. Non-Indians having been "correcting" us since the dawn of arrival, so I see why you feel so comfortable doing it. You are also the same person who stated in your scathing critique of me how the white race was-in the end-the most powerful tribe. Hard to argue with people who justify encroachment by arguing that the encroached-upon deserved it because they had inter-tribal warfare. Hiding behind your college degrees and the internet to blast out offensive "thesis" is one thing, but I sincerely doubt you would assert your linear viewpoints around traditional Natives, in our setting. If you did that, you might lower your superior-acting tone and actually learn about whose land you are treading on.

Catholicgauze said...

Yes, both you and the fundamentalists I dealt with before rely solely on stories and dismiss historical evidence as liberal academia or "white 'history'" imposed on others. We could go back and forth with you claiming that my genetic profile leads me to take one point of view and me retorting with things like the very detailed primary sources of the Jesuit Relations (oops, wait, their blood probably isn't pure enough to count).

Never once did I defend European/White American war and war crimes into Indian lands (the claim did cause me a bit of whiplash as I have been accused of being a revisionist historian by some who were upset that I decried the minimization and stereotypes of American Indians along the Oregon Trail and elsewhere).

Never once have I mentioned my degrees. Please stay on target.

Finally, your vague intimidation about me not going to "traditional Natives" (what the heck is that mean?) is just plan odd. I have given talks to and worked with multiple American Indian (including council members of a nation) and Mesoamerican nations. They were very grateful for my help and I am very much grateful for their help they gave me and their friendship.

I am sadden that you see everything with such a racist tilt. It is the same bigotry I have seen with some Israelis who destroy Palestinian farms, some radical Catholics who hate Jews, and some Islamists who kill others for thinking differently.

Tony Burton said...

I'm surprised that no-one has yet commented on the very restricted use of the word "American" in the title and coverage of the map to refer to the present-day USA ONLY! Canadian First Nations and Mexican indigenous groups are Americans, too, as are peoples further south.

Aaron Carapella said...

I will make my "vague intimidation" more a member of AIM I have seen people who have gone unchallenged get confronted face to face, and seen their reactions when real Natives stood in front of them and expressed to them how their attitudes can be very hurtful. Our community is used to being 1% of the population, getting dismissed about our opinions regarding our own selves. It gets tiring trying to just get respect.

I admit I have a "tilt", or a bias. But I am also realistic about the fact that science and anthropology DO have a place , ALONG WITH our own beliefs, which many times mesh.I used "white academia's" information for a large part of my research, not solely "stories." That is nonsense. Perhaps if someone read your book and dismissed it based on one page, you might take issue as well.

And my main point with you is that you attempted to write off my entire project as "revisionist" and "Pan-Native", by citing one tribe on the map. You have yet to address that. I practice a very specific culture and speak that culture's language, doing my best not to intermingle "Pan-Nativism" into it as to continue its purity, so generalizing me or the map in that way is misleading. Just because you hold a degree does not give you the right to hold your nose up and look down on others beliefs or opinions.Calling me bigoted when you call the white race the "most powerful tribe" is completely the reverse of reality.

In the end, this map is not perfect, but it is being spread all over the US and Canada right now because there is a calling for it, something that many Native Americans have been asking for but no one had done it up to this point.

Catholicgauze said...


I am sure the American Indian Movement members were very kind and clam in their explanations. I've dealt with Taliban and al Qaeda before in person so I know how to handle myself when confronted by bullies. I see we cannot agree on this issue and I bid you good day while remembering the martyr Anna Mae Aquash.

Catholicgauze said...

When I was working on the thesis the hardest part of writing it was figuring out what to call natives. I brainstormed through all the terms. Eventually I consulted with members of various tribes and friends and they all agreed Indians was the most straight forward one.

Aaron Carapella said...

"Indians" is the most straightforward one?? That reaks ignorance

Aaron said...

By the way, associating AIM as comparable to Al Quaeda does have its reprecussions. A couple leaders of AIM would like to speak to you over the phone about your insensitive and racially-charged tone. If you are man enough to stop hiding behind an alias and the internet, here is their number : (612) 721-3914 . Otherwise, provide your own and the best time to call you. You may think you are the go-to person on anything Native, so maybe you need a little lesson in humility. At the very least, you should be able to face the "evil-doers"

Neil Whitelaw said...

Catholicgaueze, I am not Native American & have no Native blood. I am Whte, Caucasian. I look aghast at your comparing AIM (American Indian Movement) with al Qaeda & Taliban. This shows your ignorance, prejudice & disqualification to comment on things Indian.

Catholicgauze said...

Neil Whitelaw,
Anna Mae Aquash is unavailable to reply to your comment. I've dealt with AIM thugs before and I've dealt with AQ and Taliban before. Thugs are thugs.

Neil Whitelaw said...

Sounds like uneducated White trailer-park trash talk. People can have Phd's and still fit that category.

Catholicgauze said...

Your latest comment was elitist and racist.
What about Ana Mae Aquash?
Finally, you are trying to attack me while ignoring the fact the map was wrong. My knowledge qualifies me as having an educated opinion.
If you want to debate facts, we can debate facts. If you want to continue to make elitist and racist statements on an internet record which will not be deleted, feel free to do so also.

Catholicgauze said...

I do want to thank you though for not threatening me, unlike self professed AIM member Aaron Carapella who demonstrated himself with thuggish behavior.

Neil Whitelaw said...

I won't waste my breath.

Raisin Robsi said...


Your title intrigued me. If this map that seemed so stunning was inaccurate, it's my prerogative to find out more about it, to expand my own (very limited) knowledge. The following is a mere statement of my opinion, which will *especially not change if you choose to attack.

I don't claim to know anything about Native history. But I do know that your rude language in the comments and dismissive tone to Aaron as he struggles to justify himself for you and your readers reduces your credibility infinitely on this matter. As of your unbudging choice of stance and refusal to even admit any bit of truth in this map, and your utter lack of ability to compromise (even if you have to pretend) with another human-being, I denounce your article. I do not believe you. If you can not get your readers to believe you, I don't think you have anything at all.

Catholicgauze said...

"and your utter lack of ability to compromise (even if you have to pretend) with another human-being" For my understanding, 1) are you saying truth doesn't matter in a debate over facts and 2) are you encouraging me to lie?

Raisin Robsi said...

You're just not the guy I'm going to take facts from. I advize your readers to think twice about your words also.

The average person lies at least once per 10 minutes of conversation - I'm sure you are no exception. So yes, maybe you should lie about what a jerk you are. Up to you though, whatever makes you think you are winning the internet.

Catholicgauze said...

"So yes, maybe you should lie about what a jerk you are." Wait, so you don't think I am a jerk if I claim so?

Tell you what, let's stick to facts by being historical scientists. I make the claim that Dakota/Sioux were not pre-contact tribes of the Dakotas as Aaron claims so. I bring up as sources

West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776 by Claudio Saunt
PBS' Buffalo War
And a history of the Arikara people by the State of North Dakota

If you have evidence to the contrary of equal or greater value we can together find the truth and both be rewarded with being eventually right.

Catholicgauze said...

Also, please permit me to enter into evidence the history section of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's official website which discusses how the Sioux moved onto the plains and displaced tribes which were there before them.

Raisin Robsi said...

You can throw information at me. But I believe you are closed off to hearing things that contradict you.

Everything else aside, and on a more friendly note... is this your website? The narrative is eerily similar

Catholicgauze said...

You come here making personal claims against me, instruct me to say what you admit to be a lie, and then refuse to back up a POV which you defend. That's not intellectual debating, that making nose. What gets me is your lie of "on a more friendly note". That's trolling. You do not have honest intentions to advance knowledge. When you decide you want to act like a mature member of society and join the debate of ideas and expand your knowledge, please do comment and I will publish it. I had hoped you would act better than Aaron who threatened violence against me and Neil who used a racial slur (also, a decent chunk of Jim Crow laws wouldn't consider me white so calling me White Trailer Trash (why bring class into this?) was just odd).