Friday, August 19, 2016

Another America, A Review

The cover of Warhus' "Another America" features the third section of Sitting Rabbit's map of the Missouri River. 
Another America: Native American Maps
Big River Villages At Cannonball River
A Book Review By Dakota Wind
Bismarck, ND – In 1997, Mark Warhus, published his work Another America: Native American Maps And The History Of Our Land. Warhus carefully examined and researched Native American maps from a variety of mediums from petroglyphs and bark to animal hide and paper, from pre-contact to post-reservation.

In the pre-contact days and through post contact, when maps were drawn, it was only at great need. Mapping the land was through language (both oral and sign), before it was ever drawn. When a map was rendered, it was also done with a unique world view. For some tribes, east, the direction of the sunrise was the direction to orient oneself. For others it was the mountains to the west. For the Lakȟóta it was the south, the direction upon which pulls the water.

According to Warhus, “When a map was needed to show the way or convey a message, it would be drawn out on the ground, in the snow, or in the ashes of a campfire. These drawings were transitory illusions for the oral documents.” The oral document to which Warhus refers to is the sense of time it might take to reach an objective. How many days or nights it might take, or how many “sleeps.” The oral document may include tribal entities in a landscape, and whether one was on friendly terms with them. The oral document certainly included rivers, streams, and bodies of water.

Western maps are oriented to the north, and detail things like miles, elevation, latitude, and longitude, as if the landscape were nothing without being measured. The native maps, oral and drawn, are maps of experience.

Warhus details the dispossession of the landscape and the renaming of it. His work doesn’t serve as an apology for what happened, but exclaims at the loss of historical and cultural information, while rejoices in the maps that have survived calling them “documents of resilience and survival.”

Another America includes the Mandan Indian Sitting Rabbit’s map of the Missouri River that depicts an old Mandan town south of present-day Fort Yates, ND on the south bank of what is known variously today as Ókaǧa Wakpá (“Floater’s Creek”), Akíčhita Haŋská Wakpá (“Long Soldier Creek”), or the Four Mile Creek. The Mandan town was known as Mida Oduk Kua Atis (“Village Of Woods Confluence”).

A picture from page 47 of Warhus' "Another America" features the third section of Sitting Rabbit's map of the Missouri River. Note: the Big River is the Cannonball River.

Sitting Rabbit’s map goes as far north as the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers. The map does more than just mention place, but details history and names of sites from hundreds of years ago, places the Mandan don’t live at anymore. One such site in particular deserves to be mentioned here in light of current energy interests and that is the two Mandan villages on both the south and north banks of the Cannonball River. The historic Mandan referred to the Cannonball River as the Big River. The two villages there were known as As Irtia Athis [transcription may be incorrect] (“Big River Villages”).

Sitting Rabbit’s map tells us that the Mandan regularly crossed the river to hunt bison along Beaver Creek, chasing them to a location they called Mysterious Corral, or what is today known as Little Beaver Creek. This method of hunting bison fell out of practice after the arrival of the horse. The map also names the hill, upon which the water tower rests in the community of Cannonball, as Bison Ear Hill.

Warhus’ book, and all the maps therein, are treasures. They detail inter-tribal conflicts, inter-tribal trade and commerce, hunting and fishing, and history reaching back hundreds, if not a thousand years or more.

Many of the illustrations and maps are in color. One almost wishes that this book were published in a larger format to really appreciate the detail and texture of the maps, but don't let this stop you from adding this to your home or work library. Get your copy of Mark Warhus’ Another America: Native American Maps AndThe History Of Our Land