Tag Archives: indigenous lands

Blurred Boundaries and Indigenous Lands

Geodesy has long increased the number of claims by extractive industries through remote sensing, and especially over indigenous lands. Yet crowd-sourced tools of geolocation have also enabled a range of counter-maps of indigenous native land claims that have pushed back on how industries that have increased access to the resources buried beneath the very lands to which indigenous groups have ancestral claims. Indeed, inovative webmaps like NativeLands.com provide not only a new standard for cartographic literary, but offer an ethical redress of the lost of lands indigenous have roundly suffered from the uninvited Anglo settlers of North America.

For although the maps of Anglo settlers–attracted by the shifting global markets for goods, from cotton, to gold, to petroleum, all claimed without consent from their longtime inhabitants–erased or omitted local claims to land by those seen as nomadic, and of an earlier historical developmental stage, with a cutting logic of relegating their very presence to the past, the reframing of collective memories to inhabiting lands and regions offers a plastic and particularly valuable cartographic resource for remediating the future. The problem of a project of decolonization of course was greater than a map could achieve–but the relentless colonization of indigenous spaces and places needed a public document or touchstone to return. The presence of native tribes was never in question during the colonization of the continent–if one can only ponder the notion of the Library of Congress, Daniel Boorstin, who commemorated the approach of European and native cultures as so culturally fruitful for American culture, rather than one of loss. But how to take stock of the scale of loss? Northern California has been recently a site of active indigenous resistance to a legacy of colonization, the cartographic unearthing of land claims offers a new appreciation of increasing pluralistic possibilities of occupying the land.

Webmaps offer the possibility of stripping away existing boundaries, in cartographically creative ways, by interrogating the occupation of what was always indigenously occupied in new ways. Henry David Thoreau was plaintive as he voyaged down the Concord River, realizing how native lands had been not only usurped by the introduction of European grasses and trees, not only leading the apple tree to bloom beside the Juniper, but brought with them the bee that stung its original settlers; pushing downriver and “yearning toward all wilderness,” he asked readers, “Penacooks and Mowhawks! Ubique gentium sunt?” The signs of longstanding presence are not erased, but present on the map. And although lack of fixed boundaries on native lands have long provided an excuse to stake claims that exclude inhabitants who are seen as nomadic, or not settled in one place, and laying claim or title to it, and “without maps,” the blurred boundaries of NativeLands re-places longtime residents on the map, wrestling with the long-term absence of indigenous on the map. There is a sense, in the crowd-sourced optimism that recalls the early days of OpenStreetMap and HOT OSM, of the rewriting of maps and the opening of often erased land claims that crashed like so many ruins that accumulate like a catastrophe as wreckage that has piled at the feat of an Angel of History who is violently propelled by the winds to the future, so she is unable to ever make the multiple claims and counter-claims in the wreckage at her feet whole, and the pile of ruins constituted our sense of the progress of the present, even as it grows toward the sky.

NativeLands.ca

The website was the direct reaction to the active search for possibilities of extracting underground petrochemical reserves on indigenous lands in Canada. The growth of the website north of the border however has resonated globally, underscoring the deep cultural difficulties of recognizing title to lands that was long occupied by earlier settlers. If many of the claims to petroleum and mineral extraction in indigenous land is cast as economic–and for the greatest good–the petrochemical claims are rooted in an aggressive military invasion, and are remembered on NativeLands as the result of abrogated treaties and land cessions that must be acknowledged as outright theft.

The history of a legacy of removing land claims and seizing lands where Anglos found value has led many to realize the tortured legacy–and the unsteady grounds on which to stand to address the remapping of native lands. General Wesley Clark, Jr. acknowledged at Standing Rock, asking forgiveness in 2016, almost searching for words–“Many of us are from the units that have hurt you over the many years. We came. We fought you. We took your land. We signed treaties that we broke. We stole minerals from your sacred hills. We blasted the faces of our presidents onto your sacred mountain. . . . We didn’t respect you, we polluted your Earth, we’ve hurt you in so many ways, but we’ve come to say that we are sorry.” Crowd-sourced maps of claims on NativeLands offer an attempt at remediation, although a remediation that might echo, as Chief Leonard Crow Dog responded at Standing Rock, “we do not own the land–the land owns us.”

Oceti Sakowin (Sacred Stone) camp near the Standing Rock Reservation, Cannon Ball, North Dakota, United States on December 6, 2016.

The sacred lands that had long reserved sacred lands in ancestral territory to indigenous tribes were indeed themselves contested at Standing Rock in 2015-6, when the 1868 Treaty of Ft. Laramie that assigned Sioux territory east of the Missouri River and including the water that runs through these ancestral lands as including the water, but the protection of these waters as within ancestral lands was not only challenged but denied by the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline, even if the water runs through Sioux territory, as it long had, leading the Sioux Nation to bring suit against the US Army Corps of Engineers for having planned the pipeline through their ancestral lands, and attracting support of military veterans who objected to the continued use of Army Engineers to route the pipeline through historical and cultural sites of the Upper Sioux that ran against the lands reserved fort he Sioux nation.

Indian Claims Classification Determination of Sioux Territory across Missouri River

The challenge or undermining of ancestral claims to land by the DAPL offered a basis for accounting or tallying of the respect of previous treaties and land claims. In the rise of the webmaps Native Lands, a new and unexpected use was made of the very cartographic tools that facilitate international petrochemical corporations–and indeed military forces–to target lands valued for mineral production with unprecedented precision have helped to stake a claims for the land’s value that undercut local claims to sovereignty. The website offers a way to preserve claims that were never staked earlier so clearly, and to do so in dialogue with broken treaties as a counter-map taking stock of the extent of indigenous lands. It is as if, within the specters of extractive industries’ deep desire to possess the targeted energy reserves, and at the end of a history of dispossession and destruction, the indigenous that were systematically killed and removed from their lands over the nineteenth century, at whose close 90-99% were killed, in a massive and unprecedented theft of land, forcing them from migratory habits to receive religious instruction and live on bound lands to which they were confined. (In Canada, where NativeLands was first based, such displacement began from the clearing herds of bison herds from Prairies to begin construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the principle commercial artery to the West, that had by 1869 shifted indigenous resources to rations that rarely arrived, to be replaced by cattle on lands settled by European famrers and style of agriculture. As Plenty Coups, facing the extinction of a way of life on Crow lands, as their nation was abolished, “when the buffalo went away the hearts of my people fell to the ground, and they could not lift hem up again: after this, nothing happened.”

Time stopped because the imposition of new modes of agrarian regime recast native lands as terra nullius to be settled by Anglo and European farmers, a surrender of land title from 1871-1921 that nullified local land claims. The cartographer and framer of the U.S. Census, newly appointed to what would be the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Francis Amasa Walker conducted the first review of 300,000 Native American in the United States of 1874, trying to sort out the theft of land over four hundred treaties. Walker’s agency was not clear, but if he bemoaned theft of ancestral lands fertile and rich with game, confined in land that could not support them and dependent on rations, there is some sort of redress in how the NativeLands maps invites us to retrace the sessions of lands that undermined these tribal claims, and erased these nations, not deemed fit to have place or stake belonging in American made maps that Walker helped to codify, placing the loss of land that Plenty Coups did so much to try to protect and retain, against all odds, in making trips to Washington DC to allow Crow claims to survive in this new White Man’s world. Even if the claims that he preserved were less than they ahd been originally allotted–just 80%–he forestalled desires to claim land for gold prospecting and mineral extraction that are effectively on the cutting block once again today.

By 1892, the Territories of the five civilized “Indian” tribes, west of the Mississippi, confined in fixed frontiers after the forced migration in a process of Indian Removal of indigenous east of the Mississippi, later forced to resettle in the early 1820s into the area adjoining modern Oklahoma, where indigenous already lived, renamed “Indian Territory” but within newly fixed bounds. What was a rich area of hunting and without permanent settlement was long understood as their own lands, but were absent from maps until the relocation of “civilized tribes” into the boundaries of Indian Territory, imposing a new notion of territoriality on Indian Lands that delegitimized nomadic presence in earlier native lands–tribes whose presence was “civilized” as they had gained governments and legal traditions modeled on America.

Map of the Indian and Oklahoma Territories (1893)/Library of Congress

While we see these maps as pinpointing mineral claims with precision that might allow extraction of underground reserves, it would be better to learn to regard the map of claims as akin to an ecological haunting of North America, disrupting not only settled modern treaties with indigenous peoples in Canada, but disrupting the longstanding claims of historical inhabitation of lands by those who long conserved them, a conflict of two geographies that, globally, is steaming to a head in the twentieth century, as global claims risk obscuring the local claims of the custody and preservation of historic claims: an entanglement of overturned treaties, renegotiated sites of mining and mineral extraction, and actively negotiated land claims, the map is not a record of spatial knowledge, but also something of a historically determined palimpsest, if urgency of locating energy reserves for collective good risk flattening the rich historical record in the search for petrodollars–the dominant global currency of the day to which ancestral lands are compelled to accommodate.

This post seeks to address ongoing questions of land use decisions that are of increasing importance in an era of shifting ecological niches and ecosystems by pollution. While the lines of indigenous territory were long discounted and seen as less easily translated into terms of territoriality–the roaming or spatial dispersion of households of indigenous bands over a vast area were seen as not having a fixed perimeter, or a “map-like representation” of territory and a communitarian notion of land-use–whose “use” of a territory was foreign to concepts of a nation, or able to be compared to the bounded territoriality settler communities understood their own worlds., or territorial demarcations and partitioning, and foreign to “true land ownership”–their maps did not indicate lines of property ownership.

Before such a map of the recent land claims that seem to grasp smattered mineral deposits for extractive possibilities, it seems counterintuitive that the modern tools of geolocation have provided a new basis to affirm indigenous claims to the land–as if the two maps are departing from one another, red splotches revalued and excised from established treaties.

Mineral Claims in Land Claims Currently under Negotiation in Canada

The abrogation of treaties is nothing new to the history of indigenous claims from the nineteenth century to ancestral lands, but the heightening of debates in recent years accompanies the expanded scale of destruction of mining and the logic of geolocation of mineral deposits from remote sensing, leading to a growing number of claims removed from treaties that were intended to preserve a site–see the range of claims eagerly made on land in Bears Ears!–in a mad scramble to unlock mineral resources buried under the land.

But if the patchwork of red dots denoting mineral claims seem located with a terrible certainty in historical and modern settled treatises, tools of mapping have opened indigenous perspective on land claims as a form of private property and ancestral lands that descend from the Enlightenment defense of how states secure private property rights John Locke most clearly articulated as the right taking into possession of the lands of indigenous who had failed to cultivate or farm lands, or, in modern terms, extract their resources. While Locke developed ideas of property while working for the Secretary for the Royal Council on Trade and Plantations in the Carolinas, eager to settle areas of “New World” to benefit Atlantic trade, crafting a constitution for the Carolinas, based on the cultivation of those lands that indigenous “failed” to cultivate, the export of the current underground resources lying in land claims currently being renegotiated is based on a terrifyingly similar logic.

It is in the context of the proliferation of mineral claims that the creation of new online maps of ancestral lands have been developed, as a counter-mapping of land claims that have long been insufficiently preserved in treaties or recognized. They seek to pose questions of the long unresolved questions of possessions, raising deep ethical questions of the limits of ownership, and artfully articulate the need to formulate forms of acknowledgment of the expropriation of indigenous rights. The collective nature of the crowd-sourced response to the erosion fixed lines of property long posed to indigenous lands, forested or unploughed, offers a provocative cartographic riposte to the toxic multiplication of claims of mineral resources that upset modern treaties, swept aside with historical treaties that seem to fall as if at the feet of the Angel of History, blown backwards by time, as if so many ruins of the past.

As we try to calculate the depth of historical obligations of nations to native peoples and indigenous land claims, the crisis of extraction may provide more than healthy starting point. While the probability of gas reserves may be more difficult to pinpoint above the Arctic Circle, as exploratory studies are less rarely authorized, and since their discovery in 2008 were newly classified as “potentially recoverable”–although as arctic ice sheets melt, that story is potentially beginning to change: but if the chromatic variation in geolocated gas reserves north of the Arctic Circle seem suitably drained of color, the apparent absence of any land claims on the map seems almost strategic. Is the absence of any indication of ancestral lands in the circumpolar stereographic projection not privileging advantageous opportunities for oil extraction, rather than recognizing longstanding land rights, or sites of residence?

Land Claims for Mineral Reserves (Red); Federally Recognized Indigenous Possessions (Black); Historical and Modern Treaties (Green and Tan Overlays)

Yet the naming of the land, or its recoloration by the likelihood of extracting mineral profit, irrespective of the environment, is a dramatic remapping of value in the land, in ways not seen by its inhabitants, and a triangulation of human relations to the land, and the demand for oil, as much as a reorientation of objective record of geographic space.

Maps presented something like vestiges of the indigenous past of places past–“Ye say that they all have pass’d away/That noble race and brave;/That their light canoes have vanish’d,/From off the crested wave/ . . .But their name is on your water,/Ye may not wash it out,” wrote Lydia Sigourney in Indian Names; Whitman described “the strange charm of aboriginal names” that “all fit” the places, rivers, coasts and islands that they describe as adequately as onomatopoeia–“Mississippi!-the word winds with chutes–it rolls a stream three thousand miles long,” yet most names of “Indian” origin, if avoided by early settlers, to be absorbed y American tongues as they grew emptied of indigenous title. Yet the removal or blanching of indigenous geographies suggests a new relation to extracted spaces, under the ground, unanimated and sensed, remotely, for a commodity value cast as objective in its blueness, as if to convert space to a calculus of market values that exists less objectively than as a grounds for its extraction and universal needs of energy consumption, as if the probability of access to products provides the universal index of meaning indicated by shades of blue.

This relation to space, if akin to John Locke’s classic description of the value of cultivated and enclosed land that Anglo settlers are able to create in “America”, gaining value by cultivation that they would otherwise lack among indigenous, is a classic move of appropriation by means of revaluation, stated as so self-evident that it seems not an act of revaluation, but recognition of opening the “fruited soil” or “petroleum reserves” to global markets–whether markets of a global Atlantic trade for sugar, cotton, and that reveal their intrinsic value in ways not apparent to their previous occupants, by a re-designation that will elevate the land’s value of lands as the demand and need for products washes over them, to benefit “all” mankind.

A similar logic haunted how Henry David Thoreau described the benefits of displacing indigenous inhabitants, in 1861, as a historical logic that might be found in the land. For Thoreau transitioned from how “the civilized nations–Greece, Rome, England–have been sustained by the primitive forests, which anciently rooted where they stand” reasoning that it was evident that such nations “survive as long as the soil is not exhausted,” and as nations are “compelled to make manure of the bones of its fathers,” prevailing wisdom agrees “It is said to be the task of the American ‘to work the virgin soil,’ and that ‘agriculture here already assumes proportions unknown everywhere else” in its exorbitant wealth.

The American story is a dialectic process of agricultural transformation of landscape by which “the farmer displaces the Indian even because he redeems the meadow, and so makes himself stronger and in some respects more natural” as fields were transformed by plough, hoe, and spade. And while we often see these claims as “modern” in their reliance of using maps to claim lands for a global energy market–if it is only the latest commodity to secure unchallenged status as a public good of global consensus. The reservations on which most indigenous were confined as deemed less valuable or desired land, in a process of geographic displacement and forced migration that began after the Gold Rush in California but could be traced to the arrival of planters in the southeast coast of the colonies, but was suddenly creating a run on property claims in the Sierra foothills to which the world’s eyes seemed to turn, as emigration to the Gold Country set a new standard for mapping the global ties to the Gold Country long before the accurate geodetic determination for extracting a universally acknowledge good.

Important Directions to Persons Emigrating to California

The periplus-like legend that was paired with the composite hemispheric and regional map of Upper or New California offered guides for enterprising travelers to set eyes on the newly mapped western state, the accompanying legend acknowledging the lodestone, as “gold mines of California . . . known to have existed in the sixteenth century, for as early as 1578, about the time Sir Francis Drake made voyage to the coast,” Jesuits had gained possession of “certain tracts which they knew of more than ordinary value,” whose value they depreciated by false reports: but now the map delivered this valuable insider knowledge that never commanded attention of the Spanish court, but was now safely in the hands of whoever owned the map to allow global emigration to the “fertile and picturesque dependent country, [distinguished by the] mildness and salubrity of its climate” that is with a “latitudinal position that of Lisbon” whose global geographic position makes it one of the most desirable “point of commerce, in this or any continent,. . . destined to be one of the greatest disbursing depots in the world.”

The global circulation of goods were spectacularly invoked to displace native land claims in wyas that didn’t even require geodesists, as a spectacular conjuncture of capital displacing land claims. For the 1879 mapping of global routes to the Gold country, the year that the coutnry adopted the Gold standard, oriented audiences ready to get rich quick the necessary “important directions” for orienting themselves to claims in the Gold Country of California–the same years at which “Indian” reservations were effectively marginalized outside the state, when Francis Amasa Walker remapped the western states to cast white populations in mauve apart from the indigenous hunting grounds or reservations set off in bright orange in official maps drafted as Commissioner for Indian Affairs, modeled on the maps on rainfall and natural resources he had compiled for inclusion within the decennial U.S. Census of 1870.

from Francis Amasa Walker, The Indian Question” (1874)

If these rigorusly bound reservations and hunting grounds followed clear lines of jurisdiction determined by latitude and longitude, preserving many of the tribal names situated in a clearly demarcated “Indian Territory,” the surveyed bounds confirmed a broad displacement of indigenous across western states.

The map placed the Gold Country in national if not global visibility, before GPS, or geodesy, centered on placing the valued commodity of the day in easy reach. The topically colored region–tinted in ways that hinted the riches bound to be seen underground–was suddenly in access of all, advertised as able to be reached by boat via Panama or Cape Horn or the midwest, invoking an early globalization to erase and displace local land claims. The “gold regions” were in fact long inhabited Indian lands. The map shows the region as if mapped anew, soon after the first massacres of indigenous in a spate of “Gold Country” maps confirmed the voiding of all title tribes might have had, with little trace or reminder the historic presence of the peoples who once lived in the region save by the historic resonance of evocative place names, Longfellow style. It was shown ready for resettlement–or “settlement”–in growth small towns as Sacramento, later the state capital, without reminder of the migrant tribes resettled on confined inland land, far from the coast or the fertile Central Valley. One can only sense a whiff in almost mythical regions (as Yuba and Yola) or the aptly named “El Dorado” attracted eyes to rolling hills where riches were to be made: regions today best known not for gold but fires, the over-settled Wildlands-Urban Interface.

The currency gold gained as a universal standard in the first years of the gold standard adopted that very year treated gold as a universal logic of land claims for areas effectively prepared to be rendered as open to settlement, having been purged of inhabitants, and erased from the maps that were sold of “the mining district” in increasing numbers, that can be cast as a growing cartographic literacy purging California as a multi-ethnic state.

Wiilliam A. Jackson, Map Of The Mining District of California 1851
from Jackson’s Map Of The Mining Districts Of California 1851

Courtesy David Rumsey Map Library, Stanford University

The relatively rapid shift in title to the land from 1848 that would be all but accomplished within thirty years, as by 1879, the American Genocide all but completed some years earlier, two decades after Anglo newspapers opened an unofficial “war of extermination . . . until the last redskin of these tribes has been killed” to take the gold-rich lands as their own, and gold the national standard invested it with global currency and a logic of land seizure.

Lands opened for prospecting were not marked as being cleared by permanent displacement, a massive resettlement effort that prefigured the displacements of the twentieth century, but focussed on the lustrous gold arrowhead hand-tinted in an 1879 map as a destination promising the bounty of extractable wealth from its rivers, mountains, and valleys ready for the taking by all able to pay costs of passage as a near-universal “right” of access to this map that shows California as if island, shown at larger scale in an odd frame situated in the Pacific, as a new land where new rules applied, but where all could access by shipping channels from other continents, drawn to this one site by the lure of the glowing gold ready to be pried from being lodged in the region of California inland from the coast. west off the Great Interior Basin, as the world must have been suddenly heading and focussing attention on the mecca of the newly affirmed universal standard of financial currency in a globally contracted world.

Gold Regions in Calfornia, Showing the routes via Chagres and Panama, Cape Horne, & c
Ensigns & Thayer. New York: 1849, courtesy Donald Rumsey Map Center, Stanford University Library

The long tradition in such maps was to exclude an indigenous perspective. But what might it be like to map from the other side, as it were, less in terms of land claims of property than inviting a greater negotiation of the land use with the longstanding use of land that indigenous communities have often long used?

This question, long pressing but rarely recognized as pressing to address, was subsumed by the logic of capital and the demands for extraction, either in the maps of oil extraction in the header to this post, or the Gold Country maps, placing less emphasis on boundaries than the ability to target, access, and export to a market whose demand trumps the local customs of the inhabitants of the place–far from the Far Utah Indians living far inland, or “Utah Indians,” but offering a separate plot that immediately attracts the viewer’s eye to rest on this region of “Upper or New California” newly open to all who sought all that glitters, as if it were a land of luxury, an island generating huge wealth for the taking, even if it wasn’t an island at all.

But California wasn’t at all an island for practices of forced displacement or territorial claims,–more like a workshop or staging zone for practices of extermination and land seizure of the twenty and twenty-first century. That maps might preserve the memory in which indigenous not only live, but long inhabited, could recast the lands as part and parcel of a sense of self, long obliterated or erased from earlier maps, whose content we would do well to interrogate and examine in terms of the erasure of the very idea of the existence or collective memory of earlier land claims.

And as Thanksgiving comes as an opportune time to seek deeper truths than are evident in the map of acknowledged tribal lands, or the violence of the longstanding aims of eliminating the presence of indigenous from the map, this post took a deep dive, as it were, in musing about the possibly preserving native claims in maps. For many indigenous in North America, indeed, Thanksgiving is better known in indigenous communities as a National Day of Mourning, the displacement of indigenous land claims from the current maps of nations has offered little space to negotiate land rights.

The new opportunity to map a persuasive representation of past land use has provided a new cartography akin to a pharmakon, remedying the erasure of indigenous presence in crowd-sourced remapping platforms, whose overlapping boundaries of tribal space may derive part of its compelling power and increased impetus from the erosion of “boundaries” in the mapping of the nation state,–if not of the integrity of the nation state as a semantic unit of clear bounds. Might the platform that promotes a sense of the blurred nature of indigenous space on TribalLand.ca be more than a purely virtual representation of an affective relation to the lost title to lands, but eventually be effective in giving rise to something new in the shifting structure of the nation state, where the place and space of indigenous inhabitation deserves increased prominence than it has long had? Such are the questions posed as the longstanding inequities of dispossession of lands, heightened perhaps by recognition of the failures of custodianship of environmental health, but providing increasingly undeniable dilemmas not only of the naming of place, but the ghosts in the closet of our civil society.

As the nation wrestles with its troubled pasts, and the ethics as well as objectivity of mapping space, as well as the danger of environmental devastation on several fronts, the resource of NativeLands opens new questions of how we understand our relation to the land, and the place of engaging indigenous inhabitants in collective decisions of land use, from the leasing of mineral rights to the potential devastation of oil pipelines and energy transport, or underground fracking and petroleum prospecting. It might be a way of using the very tools of geodetic mapping that extractive energy has profited so much to create a new forum for interrogating land use, and empowering indigenous communities as stake-holders to questions of property from which they were long excluded.

Western North America/Native-Land

The attempts to crowd source a layer of the boundaries of indigenous land claims on TribalLands.com, noteworthy as suggesting a new ethics of mapping, both with a clear historical online apparatus that serves as a dynamic legend, and the refreshing colors of a distinct cartographic palette of light lavender, green, violent, and yellow that broadens the divides of territorial claims sharply-edged cartography of the past. The oddly open space in these maps are not legally binding–or rooted in law–but offer a poignant and indeed healing cartographic pharmakon of ghost-like claims we are currently learning to negotiate with the lines of jurisdiction or sovereignty inherited from the past. While the web map is finally turned to only in §8-14 of this post–perhaps a section that deserves to be its own post!–the time-laden nature of obscuring native or indigenous claims are examined as a cognitive problem and historical project in earlier sections, turning to the complex place of indigenous in California’s formation as a state, before the Native Land maps are examined as a productive undoing of the historical violence worked by the marginalization of native land claims–effectively a cartographic distortion and omission that has deep logic and cunning roots.

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Filed under American genocide, California, data visualizations, native lands, thanksgiving

The New Arid Regions of the United States

The southwest and states east of the Sierras magnify the effects of global warming in the intensity of their aridity. But global warming reveals a new relation of regions to overheating, and reveals the depths of inflexibility to accommodate water scarcity, as well as the tragedy of its effects. As aridity of the soil and reduction of groundwater reaches unprecedented scales, our passivity is accentuated as we are suspended before maps that try to visualize unprecedented aridity magnified by global warming and its magnifying effects.

For the cascading effects of warming on the land and environment might be mapped in ways that cannot essentialize the greater “aridity” of the region, but the effects of increased aridity of soil, air moisture, and dry air on a region that we have remade into a region of food supplies, agriculture, and livestock, but, beyond, on hydropower. While the Colorado mountains long provided an effective basin to gather rainwater for western states that have been funneled to state reservoirs for agricultural irrigation, the man-made irrigation networks were drying up as the snowpack determinedly fell, and warmer temperatures evaporated what snowpack fell.

The logic of this longstanding pattern of appropriation of water from across the Colorado Basin was in a sense begun with the Hoover Dam, but was, writ large, organized by very process of appropriating water rights to redistribute water that had been enshrined in California from the turn of the century, circa 1914 and the policies of filling reservoirs to redistribute water rights. While we have considered appropriative water rights a distinct feature of how water is redistributed unique to the Golden state, the appropriation of water rights by reshuffling of water in state’s now precarious supplies how diverts over 99 million acre feet of surface water diverted along the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers to farmland, created a powerhouse of national agriculture. Much of the 75 million acre feet that flow from reservoirs across the state evaporates before it arrives at crops, however–far more that actually reaches the farms or cities.

–and the growing heat of the Great Plains have likewise diminished surface flow of the Colorado Basin already reduced by diminished rainfall. The increasingly warmer atmosphere of recent years has created a new “Arid Region” of the United States, of even greater aridity than when it was first mapped by John Wesley Powell in 1890, and the renewed aridity of the region not only challenges the calculus of water distribution according by appropriative rights that is structured by the Interstate Compact, but the very logic of redistributing water.

The past two decades have seen the departure of seven trillion gallons from Lake Mead, the largest reservoir on the Colorado River, holding rainflow from the Upper Basin before it crests the Hoover Dam. The drop will trigger hydrologic stresses across western states, as ever ever-increasing amounts of water are sucked up into drying out air and atmosphere, requiring more abundant irrigation of croplands and grazing grounds. This new and expanded “Arid Region” suggests a return of the repressed, returning at even greater scale and aridity to haunt the nation by a lack of groundwater again.

Evapotranspiration Rates in Colorado River Basin, Landsat 13

that is not to say it ever left. But the solutions of diversion have been undermined by the cascading effects of climate change and increasing temperatures, across an expanse of irrigated lands where water from the Upper Colorado, as from the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, are funneled to cities, farms, and irrigation projects, and used to generate electricity. Even as Californians and westerners face the threat of further fires more destructive than any in recorded history–potentially enough to energize an implausible recall effort in the state of California–we face the problems of managing not only historic drought, mandated energy shortages, reduced water supplies. The climate crisis appears to have provoked a deep crisis in leadership, but one without easy means of resolution.

The most improbable political candidates–global warming skeptics after Donald Trump’s heart–have argued drought, wildfire, and electrical storms reveal Gavin Newsom’s lack of leadership, even as they stridently object to aggressive climate legislation aimed at emissions reduction as restraining the free market business,– preferring a free market approach for all climes that would be the laissez-faire redistribution of water to the highest bidder, monetizing a scarce resource to consolidate financial profits and gain in response to diminished water supplies.

As more water is being released from Upper Basin reservoirs to make up for the shortfall in Lake Powell, but the shortage of water in Lake Mead–the largest reservoir in the United States–to less than 40% capacity by 2022 will mean reducing water for lower basin states like Arizona of 812,000 acre-feet, Nevada–by 21,000 acre feet, and Mexico, by 80,000, that have led to the call for new “water markets” to be created across the western states. Indeed, even western states no longer carry the brunt of increased use of freshwater for irrigation–

High Country News

–the demand for conserving water in agriculture is increasingly incumbent on western states, so much so that the shift to less water-intensive crops–like California’s almonds–at a time when many crops require more irrigation, and a shift toward fewer acres of pasturage for livestock–good luck–have become a necessity. Increasing the efficiency of irrigation systems is necessary–ending customs of flooding fields, increasing drip irrigation, center-pivot irrigation, or micro-irrigation, in a New Deal for agriculture, even regulating irrigation systems before water markets price rural communities out of their accustomed access to freshwater. The increased trend toward shifting the distribution of water by “water markets” from lower- to higher-value use is dangerous for farmers, and indeed all rural areas, but also for the western ecology, as it would be the most difficult to preserve water in rural communities or farming areas less able to pay for pricing of water for higher use-value, although they currently consume over 70% of the water in the Colorado basin, or encourage sustainability in regions that are increasingly facing realities of sustained drought, if not megadrought of unprecedented intensity.

United Stated Drought Monitor for Western States, October 2021

Yet the systems of allocating water from the Colorado River by a system of dams, diversions, and canals have led to broad calls to end further projects of water diversion, as the diversion of water to western states may be drying up itself by up leads to calls for new policies of allocating water, not based on the highest bidder, as the river we have made increasingly mobile across boundaries will be divided or redivided between agriculture, urban use, indigenous Americans, and land trusts, as we are in need of redefining the working basis for conserving the redistribution of water rights beyond capture and diversion, and outside of existing water markets and appropriative water rights within states. While the Bureau of Land Reclamation has run the reservoirs, dams, canals, and hydroelectric plants and contracting with individual districts, a broad reconception of practices of regulating water markets, allocations of water, and costs of large-scale water diversion, as demand for water outstrips supply.

Yet as increased farmers are withdrawing water from the ground, or from rivers, from California’s Central Valley to the Lower Colorado River Basin, in Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada, the need to reduce the eighty percent of water dedicated to agriculture across the west will demand new practices of conservation, beyond what John Wesley Powell mapped, in 1880, when he advocated new practices of land use, as climate change increasingly destabilizes the Basin, including the thirty sovereign Native American tribes along the river basin. The need to manage demand and riverflow that will begin with the start of the “Tier One Shortage” from 2022, will introduce new rules on water-use and supply that stand to reduce the amount of water flowing to Arizona by a third. Water diversion from the Colorado River has transformed the land west of the hundredth meridian by re-engineering its flow to make the “desert bloom.” Yet the recent dramatic reduction of rainfall, river flow, and increased aridity of the lands, leave us contemplating the viability of relying on water diversion.

John Wesley Powell, “Arid Region of the United States, showing Drainage Zones” (1880)

The new arid region is reflected in weather maps, but will be a region of radically reduced piped water and a new landscape of hydrologic diversion. If the “Arid Region” was mapped in earth-tones of clear distinction as a cautionary way by explorer and geologist John Wesley Powell, to alert the government to the distinct climate of lands west of the hundredth meridian, the recent area is both based on more detailed and specific remote sensing records, often from satellite observation, but suggests a far more complex area to manage.

For the western states are linked, both by projects of water diversion, and by hydropower, to a region where rainfall and snowpack has declined, and far less water enters into the river-flow of the rivers whose diversion allowed the expansion of agriculture and livestock across the western states. Due to global warming, the earlier “arid region” expanded, returning bigger and better than ever since it was described as extending west from the hundredth meridian by John Wesley Powell, in one of the foundational maps of climate aridity. In today’s parched California, dangerously low levels of rainfall across the central valley seem to belong to the Arid Region. But we have hardly come to terms with its new expanse or migrating edges. The “lands of the ‘Arid Region'” that Powell had hand-colored with earth-tones to communicate the dramatically falling rainfall west of the hundredth meridian long ago mapped a biting response to the eagerness of homesteaders to Go West, cautioning about constraints on water-rights that division by states–rather than drainage districts–would bring. If current rainfall maps of USDA or EPA seem to engage in dialogue with Powell’s old polemical cry, the limited traction of mapping policy against increased pressures of climate change place most maps in a sort of Scylla and Charybdis, located not in the Straits of Messina, but the scissors of decreased rainfall, rising temperatures, and lack of groundwater retention.

1. The problems of managing water rights and ensuring flow are now far greater than what Powell’s creative palette of before the fact overlays even imaged was able to depict, and was a puzzle beyond the interlocking pieces of drainage districts that he–as if akin to the first puzzle-boards composed of hand-painted maps, as this forty-nine piece puzzle map of ca. 1849, painted by Kelly & Levin, of the similar region, that curiously compressed the western United States. Was Powell’s map indicative of the difficulty of solving the puzzle of allocating water resources across arid western states?

Puzzle “Map of California, Mexico, Texas and the United States,” ca. 1849, Kelly & Levin. Boston MA

While the puzzle pieces rarely echoed the shapes of individual states, undoubtedly because o the difficulty of their cutting the contours of states, the puzzling of how the rivers of the west would align with states in this roughly contemporary 1880 Milton Bradley map-puzzle, an “Outline Map of the United States,” posed by including light blue rivers across a map with little sense of varied topography.

ca. 1860, M. H. Traubel, Lith., Philadelphia PA/American Antiquarian Society

In contrast to the resolution of assembling individual pieces of a map of fixed bounds, the expanded arid region mapped by remote sensing spans a farther territory and expanse, and raises deep questions of access to water or even soil moisture in a region that developed as an agricultural breadbasket and locus of husbandry of livestock.

The growing puzzle broached by how the water supply of the west will be reassigned is rarely faced or addressed, although it is ruminated upon as the sub-text–or super-text?–of terrifying maps of rising aridity and low rainfall across the western states, that magnify a new “arid region” with less clear suggestion of an outcome of land management but pause before the cyclically compounded effects of rising heat, low soil moisture, limited run-off, and the specter of drastic irrigation cuts.

Current remotely sensed maps use far less clearly set boundaries or edges of water-shortages, but pose similarly pressing puzzles of how to resolve the appropriative logic of water rights, as drought intensity reduces the water that once flowed from the “upper basin” of the Colorado, feeding the river and redistributed water, and even more surface water is lost to evaporation.

Snow drought is worsening the American West's water woes | The Economist

The puzzle of hydrological access to land-water has become so curtailed across western states, that increased pumping of groundwater risking depleting aquifers by draining vital aquifers, irreparably damaging rivers and riverine waters. The New Arid Region, afflicted by far more aridity and low soil moisture than at any time, parallel to increased global suffering of warming and increased heat, the persistence of private water “rights” to agrarian expanse stand increasingly on a collision course with global warming throughout the new arid West in ways we have yet to address, even as we recognize that we are facing a climate emergency of the sort without precedent in modern memory.

2. No single visualization can, perhaps, adequately come to terms with the unprecedented aridity of the recent years. For no visualization can fully capture the cascading and magnified effects of declining water and soil health, and their effects on ecosystems, as much as on livestock or irrigated crops: the distance from reduced irrigation and new climate specters demands an intensified map. But the terrifying nature of the intense aridity of western states in part lies in how we have seem to forgot the semi-arid nature of the region. The deeper effects of a drying out atmosphere were evident in the huge deficit in water vapor in the past decade during the “fire season” from August to September, dramatically unlike how fire fighters navigated the same terrain in previous decades, when many fire containment strategies were developed and many active firefighters had trained. The map is one that should raise immediate fears of the loss of a landscape of future irrigation, and the need for tightening agricultural belts and shifting our conceptions of food supply and water budgets–as well as the same landscape’s increased combustability and inability to manage or control by an old playbook.

Decreased Water Vapor Present in the Air in Past Decade from Two to Three Decades Previous

The previous month has brought an even more pronounced record of drought across the Upper Basin of the Colorado on which so much hydropower relies, as do other schemes of water diversion.

US Drought Monitor for Colorado River Basin, September 23 2021/Brad Rippey, USDA

The revelation of a new intensity of exceptional drought in many pockets of the Upper Basin of the Colorado River presses the bounds of how we imagine dryness, aridity, and their consequences, even as we rely on older methods of fire-fighting, and fire-prevention, and outdated models of water diversion and energy resources.

The historical denial of what John Wesley Powell had already called the “Arid Region” west of the hundredth meridian, has become a snare for ecological disaster translating into a process of the drying out of long-irrigated zones, with consequences that the nation has not been able to comprehend–and demand a New Deal of their own to replace the diversion of water and generation of energy in the Hoover Dam. Or have we forgotten the intensity of a differential of climate, soil moisture, and increased aridity that Powell long ago mapped in order to illustrate the new regime of government its unique atmospheric conditions it would require, using his uniquely designed palette to hint at the best way to organize the region of water scarcity according to the units that its drainage districts–rather than the state lines surveyed by latitude and longitude?

John Wesley Powell, “Arid Region of the United States, Showing Drainage Districts” (1890)

Powell had explored the canyons, rivers, and plains, as he addressed the Senate Select Committee on the Reclamation of Arid Lands in 1890, he crafted an eloquent seven-color map of rich earth-tones to impress readers with the sensitivity of the region’s texture and urge restraint for expanding the westward flow of homesteaders with hopes to make the desert bloom. Indeed, by circumscribing areas for which sufficient water in this “Arid Region” would be able to providently allow future settlement, Powell neatly divided areas for settlement in a region by hydrographic basins collecting sufficient rainfall for farming. Whereas rainfall maps of previous years mapped a blank spot of water scarcity, Powell hoped to direct attention by a devising a map of the region’s subdivisions that called attention to its soil quality and decreased moisture, focussing on its distinctly variegated terrain in ways foreign to Senators in Washington. Powell hoped to convince who were removed from the region to acknowledge the commanding constraints created by these drainage districts for all future agricultural development and settlement–an unpopular position that ran against the notion of allocating free land in an age of expansive homesteading. If the image of a “drainage district” was foreign to existing state lines, Powell’s image of an “arid region” long haunted the geography of the American West–and contributed in no small part to the subsequent reengineering of the waters of the Colorado River.

In light of the dramatically increased aridity now endemic to the western states, Powell’s map gains terrifying relevance as western states enter severe drought, placing the breaks on once-expanding developments across western states. Powell’s map articulated a historical vision of the limited infrastructure of water in the American west. While the technologies of irrigation that allowed such a massive project of damming and canalization only later developed, did his map inspire the need for a project of such scale as a better model of land management? The intensified aridity that afflicts the western states responds not only to low levels of rainfall. We continue to hope groundwater depletion that afflicts the lower basin won’t extend to the Upper Basin of the Colorado River that has captured water on which so many farmers rely–and thirty-five million north of the border and three million living in Mexico depend, across its Lower Basin. The escalating megadrought has created pressures across the overpopulated west that the water-sharing model Powell proposed for drainage districts cannot resolve, but the distinct forms of water management he advocated have been forgotten, as the declining water level on the Colorado River seems a time bomb as its waters have fallen so far below capacity that while the waters that drain from the Upper Colorado into Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the western states, are only 37% full, and Lake Powell stands at 34% capacity. As less and less water enters the river system of a drying-out west, the future of the river on which so many rely for irrigation and energy is all but uncertain.

The water-level of Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the US and a critical source of water for millions across the Southwest, has fallen 140 feet since 2000, a third of capacity.  Can we come to terms with the increased aridity across the west that the drying out of the Colorado River may bring?   The western states are haunted by the return of the "Arid Region" John Wesley Powell once mapped.
Lake Mead, May 2021

Demand for water in the upper basin and older technologies have meant far less water reaches the lower basin, but what does has been redistributed across western states–absolutely none reaches the ocean at the river’s old delta. Supplies of surface water and groundwater barely provide for the border region, as the overdraft of the basin’s aquifers have made trans-border water management a crisis often overlooked in favor of water management north of the border. As unprecedented soil aridity currently seems to run off the rails, after three summers of no rainfall have depleted soil moisture, may remind us how we have missed the lesson of Powell’s map of instilling new set attitudes toward the land, as the volume of riverflow consistently dropped as it crosses the Mexico border since the filling of the Glen Canyon Dam.

Does selective amnesia underlie how we map the drying out of the west? Most data vis of rising temperatures and low rainfall across the western states is already magnifying and escalating the effects of unprecedented heat over twenty years in a deeply melancholic vein, daunted by the scale of dryness across such an interstate expanse, and passive before an absence of atmospheric moisture that seems a modern casualty of global over-heating. If we were already “living in the future” in California’s frequent and increasingly extreme fire regimes, the multi-hued data visualizations electrify the landscape–and not with power or hydro-energy, but by the all-too familiar color ramp of the extremes of climate change we have been trying hard not to normalize. These images chart a landscape that has gotten away from us, outside seasonality changes, making the American West a cautionary case study for global climate change inspires melancholy.

The additive logic and graphic syntax of maps, long before the separate map-“layers” that accommodate information from GPS, provided a basis to define the fungibility of water and the emergence of “rights” to water across the Arid Region, enabling the idea of governing the transference of water and water “rights” across the region, that separated water from the landscape and environment. The flow of water had long been understood and reconstrued in the west by a logic of irrigation needs–and the “rights” to unpolluted water for livestock raising, pasturage, and agricultural needs of land owners–that was removed from conserving groundwater needs. The increased nature of the fungibility of water as able to be transacted across basins, state lines, and counties reflects the legal fiction of considering water as a “good” tied to the needs of property owners, that, long before global warming, had already sanctioned the removing water from the ground.

If we use metaphors rooted in temporality that try to come to scale with the new era of global warming that cut down and perhaps minimize the era of water scarcity. in which we are entering–“heat waves,” for example, that broke records in states from Washington to Idaho in June and July, breaking or matching records of hot temperatures, the levels of aridity that have allowed the ground to grow arid and degrade have not only led to a spate of western wildfires, but have changed the levels of soil moisture over the long term in ways we have difficulty to map in the scale of our weather maps, or even the maps of the U.S. Drought Monitor, as the cascading influence of such unprecedentedly dry conditions–where stresses on river water create extraction of groundwater that stresses aquifers and groundwater supplies–can be scarcely imagined, or confined to the conventions and color ramps of weather maps.

We have struggled for decades to process the cascading effects of waves of unprecedented heat that over time have produced a drying out of soil and reservoirs over the past twenty years, resulting in an expanded and far more destructive fire season and parched lands whose effects we cannot fully come to terms or comprehend, as we have not seen or experienced the extent of dryness of subsoil, soil, and low rainfall which the US Drought Monitor seems to have mapped, as drought expanded not across the entire Pacific Northwest, from Oregon to Idaho, or 86% of Idaho–by the land’s combustibility, impossible to read without premonitions of lost forests–including old growth forests–melancholic fears more than tinged by an acute sense of a lack of agency.

The sense of struggle with an absence of agency–at the same time as an almost moral urgency–reflects the difficult to process such absence of water as a landscape we have inherited from the rapidly accelerating dynamics of climate change. The history of the increased aridity is all the more poignant as a source of melancholy not only because exceptional drought was the standard before President Trump, and a national emergency before his Presidency. We have failed to register this national emergency with the same immediacy, even as the theater of the border was magnified in disproportionate ways in public discourse on migration. The sense of melancholy is compounded as the map seems haunted, if only tacitly, and perhaps without acknowledgment, by the fact that the head of the USGS in 1890 admonishingly illustrated virtually the same basins now suffering severe and moderate drought as distinguished by semi-aridity–if the current levels are nothing like those faced over a century ago, when the transition of public to private lands. We have recently mapped the substantial threat of increased aridity to the Great Plains–less than a tenth of whose croplands are irrigated–where farmers depend entirely on rainfall to grow soybeans, sunflowers, cotton, and winter wheat, the fear of greater “dry spells” as anthropogenic emissions drive decreasing rainfall and groundwater reserves–a term that tries to convince us they are not permanent–led red flags to be drawn in broad brushstrokes in those states, where extreme and exceptional ‘drought’ .

But climate change has created a new concept of “water stress”–stresses best be pictured not by the isotherms of weather maps, but the watersheds and drainage districts that were the basis of Powell’s revolutionary map, and matching the very region of the Arid Zone where the soil scientist Powell turned viewers’ attention to the crucial index of ground and soil moisture, the true determinant of the future of agrarian settlement and the future of food. The regions determined of greatest future stress were the very basins that Powell mapped, and suggest the relevance of his map, as well as his caution of the difficulties of governance in an area of severe water stress-stress being understood and indexed as a relation between supply and demand, as well as rainfall, in national watersheds.

3. The “Arid Region” of the Untied States had been austerely and admonishingly described by John Wesley Powell as a geologist to caution against the administration of its future settlement with a level of clarity that reveals his Methodist upbringing. It is hard to know how clearly we can ever parse aridity, in an age when rising temperatures have unremittingly drained soil of water. As if informed by a deep respect for the map as a clarity of record, possessing the power to reorient readers to the world by preaching a new relation to the land, Powell had placed a premium on cartographic form as a tool to re-envision local governance–and prepared his striking eight-color map of the limited rainwater that arrives west of the hundredth meridian, the eastern border of what he baptized as the Arid Region, an almost zonal construction akin to a torrid zone.

The imposing title of this reclassification of the interior of the United States revealed Powell’s own keen sense of the map as a visual record of the territory, whose transparency as a record of the quality of the land would be a basis for all discussion of settlement. Powell parlayed his own deep study of the geography of the Colorado Basin to query the value of parsing the administration of water rights by state lines in 1890, convinced of the need to oversee later apportionment outside the jurisdiction of the arbitrary boundaries of western states, but joined them to his sense of duty of preparing a legible map of striking colors to convey the constraints and difficulties for its future settlement– not only by the scarcity of the threads of rivers curled against its topography, but the few watersheds.

Powell trusted the map might mark the opening of the “Great American Desert” in order to alert the US Congress that the dry lands west of the hundredth meridian was a divide. Even if the meridian no longer marking as clear a divide of reduced rainfall, as we confront the growth with unprecedented degree of global warming of a parched west–both in terms of reduced rainfall and declining soil quality–it may serve as a model for the map we need for the future governance and administration of already contested water rights. Powell’s place in the long story of soil quality reflects how neatly the American west as a microcosm of global warming is rooted in the conversion of public lands to private ownership, into which warming has thrown such a significant wrench.

Arid Region of the United States, Showing Drainage Basins (1890)

For the Arid Region’s aridity has since been unremittingly magnified, producing a region more arid than we have ever experienced and struggle to find an adequate color ramp adequate. But we would do well to try to map the forgetfulness of that arid region, even as we confront the quandary of the stubborn continuity of sustained dryness of a megadrought enduring multiple years, compounding the aridity of the soil, and multiplying fire dangers–and the conditions of combustibility of the region–far beyond what the west has ever known or Powell imagined possible. If aridity of soils and poor land quality has spiraled out of control due to “global warming,” raising questions about the future of farms and livestock, the absence of groundwater and surface water alike, global warming demand we shift from national lenses of water shortage to beyond American territory,–but also to discuss the warping nature of national lenses on the remaking of the sediment of the west–and Colorado Basin.

The difficulties of parsing river-flow by “states” as helpful political aggregations for future settlement was rebutted by the map, which sought to direct attention to the aridity of the ground’s soils to orient its administration in a region where water was destined to remain front and center on settlers’ and residents minds for the foreseeable future. The subsequent attempt to jerry-rig the question of scarcity of water by entitlements that rely on re-apportioning unused water escaped the constraints Powell located in the basic common denominator of groundwater.

As much as the region needs to be mapped outside a national context–despite the national nature of climate tracking–the hope of revealing imbalances of the drought indeed exist across borders, and impact water-sharing agreements, much as the smoke from recent northwest fires has traveled across the Pacific northwest. National territory is as meaningless an analytic category for global warming, or water scarcity, which, this blogpost argues, exists in a global contest of migration, as the migration or transborder transit of fires’ smoke.

4. The conditions of aridity that Powell described in the Colorado Basin and its neighbors offer an oddly productive image of the dryness of the ground, in an era before irrigation, that may be useful for how we can come to terms with the fear of a suspension of irrigation across western states. But it is as if the very definition of aridity was forgotten, as infrastructures of irrigation have re-mapped the region that John Wesley Powell in 1890 mapped as an area of difficult agrarian settlement, as farmlands of agrarian fertility and wealth. Powell proposed to view the “arid region” of the United States east of the Rockies with a clarity approaching scripture in a powerful eight-color map to instructively show how limited water constrained settlement of the region after surveying the Colorado Basin.

Powell probably imagined his map in somewhat revisionary as much as rebarbative, reorienting attention to the dry nature of the soil of the semi-arid region of the Colorado Basin by parsing it in areas by which the availability of water constrainted the settlement of the “open” government lands of the west, obscuring that they were seized from indigenous, to correct the mythic geography propounded by official state-sponsored geologists. Unlike Powell, most state geologists had boosterishly endorsed a site for future pasturage, to be enriched by unknown artesian springs, and ripe for settlement by homesteaders, and Powell’s map posed a more tempered image of resettlement that would obey the laws of the availability of water in the Colorado plateaux and other regions he knew so well, cautioning against the encouragement of settlement and sale to prospective farmers in ways that have improbably made the map something of an icon of conservationist thought. Against promise of prospective bucolic lands of pasture, the dry colors chasten viewers by communicating scarcity of water of drainage basins.

The arid region that Powell correctively propounded was long inscribed in the psycho-geography of the United States to be forgotten, but the arrival of irrigation infrastructure allowing irrigation of western states continues to inform, even in our own era of global warming, the return of the boosterist sloganwhere water flows, food grows,” that is still raised in Northern California’s San Joaquin Valley, to protest “cuts to farmwater” in the recent order of an “emergency curtailment” across rivers of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed — essentially the entire Central Valley. The recourse to an engineering “miracle” of making water flow uphill and redistributing more water from reservoirs contest calls for conservation–and only demand the further construction of dams, reservoirs, and water storage for better irrigation. The very promises that the flow of the Colorado River would irrigate lands, that made good on the promises made to homesteaders by describing the region to settlers as a New Canaan, where the growth of future streamflow and even rainfall that had never been documented, would make it suitable for the expansion of animal pasturing and farming, suggests a mythic geography of timeless bounty has replaced its actual conditions.

Friant-Kern Canal Flowing past Kern Dam/Septmeber 2020, Eric Paul Zamora, Fresno Bee

The mythic geography led to a rewriting of America’s irrigation infrastructure that in itself may be one of those pieces of infrastructure just no longer adaptable to extreme climate change. And as we face the scale of the national emergency of water shortages about to be triggered by falling reservoir levels, the crisis of using and recycling water, and the inefficiency of desalination plants of riverwater and groundwater, on which the world currently relies–and were predicted by the US Bureau of Reclamation back in 2003 to provide a “sustainable” solution to the dwindling water provided by the Colorado River, which had allowed the unexpected expansion of the settlement of western states. While desalination plants currently generate worldwide over 3.5 billion gallons daily, with 50 million gallons produced daily in Carlsbad, CA alone, desalination plants in one hundred and twenty counties, only half using sea-water, its energy expense justified as Colorado River decreased, promoted as a “sustainable and drought-proof water supply in Southern California” in an era of climate change, as if to calm our concerns at the dramatically decreased groundwater of western states.

Reclamation scientists assured the nation in 2016 of future recharge in the Upper Colorado Basin would offset temperature increases in their modeling scenarios through 2099, projecting basin-wide precipitation, the fears of the persistence of a mega-drought of extreme aridity with little recharge that may last decades has left fifty-sevens million living in drought conditions across the west according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, that has brought a new era of mega-fires. The thin blue line of the Colorado River is but a crack or thread coursing through a combustible landscape in this recent map of the expansion of unprecedented extreme drought in western states from National Geographic:

For all the disturbing and disquieting elegant if terrifying spread of deep red isotherms in Riley D. Champine’s map, the consequences of such exceptionally below-average levels of precipitation and aridity are difficult to comprehend as cumulative and deep in our nation’s history, as well as the effect of man-made climate change.

The utter saturation of this data vis of growing dryness of a region where rain far below previous norms fell forces the viewer to process an undue range of measures of aridity that they must struggle to process-if the deep orange and reds approaching emergency warning to suggest that surely a climate emergency is at hand. The absence of text in the visualization invites viewers to acknowledge they stand an eery remove of familiarity with an irrevocably landscape, posing unspoken if also unanswered questions about hydrological infrastructure in the Colorado basin, and greater west, that all but erases the geopolitical formation of this landscape–interruption of a rich color ramp at the southwestern border compartmentalize the large-scale decline in precipitation apart from national categories; but the danger lies in its focus on the economically developed north, more than the global south, as if it lacked adequate resources to prudently respond to groundwater shortages, but as an emergency for the developed world.

The focus of the climate emergency is on a large scale, daunting the possibility of individual response, but focussing on prudence at a local level, even if its scale is not defined, questions whether state politics can even resolve the intensity of the dilemma of declining rainfall levels below a thirty-year norm, a deviation on so broad a scale to be impossible to process save in local terms, but that omits the way the basin has been engineered as a site where groundwater now all but fails to accumulate, increasing the basin’s deep aridity more than the color ramp reveals.

The trust that Powell placed in his maps stand in sharp contrast to the “purple” coloration of regions of extreme heat introduced across western states to suggest so many “red-flag” warnings of excessive heat. In a year already tied with 2017 for receiving “excessive heat” warnings from the National Weather Service, already in early summer at a rate that is increasingly alarming, purple designates the need for caution when leaving air-conditioned environments, and suggests the booming of electric cooling across the west: the metric of a prediction of temperatures reaching 105°F for a two-hour stretch has paralleled the debate in Washington on infrastructure spending that suggest a similar disconnect that Powell confronted when he tried to describe the need for constraints on planning settlement west of the hundredth meridian in 1890.

Four Excessive Heat Warnings issued from late May 2021 have introduced yet a new color to prominence in National Weather Service maps, the new deep purple was introduced in weather maps in 1997 as a venture of the NWS into health alerts; rarely used in other weather maps, which in recent years have shifted from urban areas to large stretches of the nation, shifting from a use of red to designate high temperatures to purple to designate risk of triple-digit temperatures, especially in man-made surfaces like asphalt (able to rise to 170°-180° Fahrenheit–territory of third-degree burns–or cars which can rise thirty degrees above air temperature.

Heat Advisories, July 11, 2021/National Weather Service

During the decade before 2003, the water-level of Lake Mead had begun to decline precipitously, inaugurating a historical decline that led it to fall to but 35% of its storage abilities. While the decline was not more precipitous than the two earlier declines in its water-levels in the reservoir from the mid-1950’s and mid-1960’s, the current decline in storage capacity of what is the largest reservoir of water in the United States has raised the unthinkable and unimaginable arrival of water cutbacks, as Arizona’s share of the Colorado River’s waters will be reduced by 7%, and Mexico–where the Colorado runs–will lose 5% of its share, in a scenario never foreseen in the dam’s history, but that reflects the increased aridity of the watershed from which the Colorado River draws. The decline to 1,075 feet in the reservoir’s depth that triggered the Tier 1 reductions in flow may only be a harbinger of the arrival of future Tier 2 reductions, should Lake Mead drop to 1,065 feet, as is expected in 2023, and raises the fear of a Tear 3 reduction, should the lake level fall below 1,025 feet, reducing the water allocated to western cities. In ways that the infrastructure of irrigating the Arid District of the United States could never have foreseen, the arrival of the driest period that the basin has ever experienced in 1200 years has brought longer periods of drier weather without rainfall that have reduced the riverwater that fills the reservoir.

The declining level of Lake Mead plunged below average lake elevation of 1173 feet, by 2003, in ways that should have sent alarms across the west, were we not consumed by a war against terror. The Bush administration’s attacks on global warming grew, questioning the science of global warming and the dangers of increasing aridity. But the disconnect between the expectation for irrigation by the farming industry and farming states was dismissed, with global warming and climate change, as temporary shifts that wouldn’t alter the landscape of irrigation or river flow.

Robert Simmon, based on data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

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Green Urbanism? Blue Urbanism?

Since maps invite their viewers to enter an image of the natural world, as well as to relate places to the broader geographic context in which it lies, they offer increasingly useful perspectives to relate the ocean to the land.  The perspective they offer on all regions has long been rooted on the land,  however.  And the coasts–and indeed the dangers–for adhering to such a “landlubberly perspective” on our rising oceans are increasingly apparent.  A perspective that privileges mapping inhabited lands –and orienting viewers to a set notion of place–places us at a particularly disastrous disadvantage when assessing questions of climate change, or reacting to the increasingly lethal storms, tsunami, and typhoons encountered as the inevitable consequences of climate change, and that coastal cities–from New Orleans to New York to the devastated Philippine coastal cities of Tacloban, Ormac or Baybay–seem condemned to repeat.

In continuing to rely on maps whose perspective denies that of the future expansion of oceanic seas, we threaten to lose perspective on our changing relation to the sea.  We have long found threats of the invasion of ocean waters difficult to integrate in an inherited image of the city as a bounded entity, and continue to draw clear lines around the cities in which we dwell:  our maps draw clear lines between land and water.  Perhaps this is because waters seem so difficult to circumscribe or bound, and the fluid relation between land and water difficult to render accurately or draw.  When an influential movement of urban architecture and planning calls for a greater integration of the natural world–so often bound outside of cities or city walls–within urban entities, they retain the notion of the bounded city.  Recuperating the term the entomologist and biologist E.O. Wilson coined, “biophilia,” to express the “innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms” in human nature that demanded attention, they argue that cities need to promote contact with nature, since, Wilson argued, such contact provides a spur to creativity, productivity, and well-being.  The planning of “biophilic cities” is dedicated as a movement of urban design to “contain abundant nature” in their structure.  The championing of “model cities”–such as Perth or Singapore–are promoted as examples of the “biophilic” age of urban architecture.

Yet are these models (often located in semi-tropical climates) not limit cases where we can most easily integrate oceanic waters into a built environment?  For by isolating the city as a unit in which to restore nature, there seems more than a bit of bio-fetishism in singling out new spaces where blue waters can enter an urban environment:  the optimism of its evangelical tenor as a movement of urban planners, dedicated to reframing the reintegration of cities with the watery surroundings has gained a broad charge and dedicated following, including partner cities that border on water such as San Francisco, Portland, Milwaukee, Vitoria Gastiez (Spain), Birmingham (England), and Wellington (New Zealand).  While the benefits of such urban architecture appear considerable, the challenges for expanding the role of the ocean in the horizons of city-dwellers seem only the start of restoring the historical isolation of the city from watery life, or integrating the oceans within our future urban planning.

The movement of blue urbanism is an illustration of courageous dedication to a project of reintegrating aquatic and urban environments–at least, presumably, before the shores of cities will be redrawn by ocean waters.  The considerable cognitive benefits claimed for these more enriched urban networks build on movements for integrating networks of urban “green-spaces”–including not only parks but green-belts and even forests is a reasoned reaction to urban sprawl and overbuilding and way to take charge of the built environments we create.  “Blue urbanism” would comprehend a watery frontier, offering opportunities for immersing children in rivers, urban parks, watery excursions, and underwater ambients which surround cities.   Blue urbanists espouses an improved integration among the fauna and flora lying near aand around cities within something like a green belt–and espouse the value of an analogous “blue belt” as a way to foster a new attachment to the waters and their shores, rather than seeing them as limits of built city.

Yet does emphasis on the human benefits of such contact carry a all too narrowly restricted notion of what a watery surrounding might be?  The watery oceanic borders of cities are in themselves rarely mapped, though the shifting waters of the Gulf Stream and other currents determine the shoreline inhabitants of North America, but might a map provide a fuller perspective on the interchanges and ecosystems lost by drawing firm barriers between urban and ocean life?

1.  The “blue urbanism” that Timothy Beatley advocates wields the rhetoric and best practices of green architecture’s “integrated network of urban space” to invite us to re-imagine cities’ relation to the shores on which they border.  Yet there is concern that such projects of rebuilding turn away from the depth of our historical remove from the waters that surround our cities–an increasingly pragmatic concern after the very fragility of this divide has been so traumatically revealed in recent decades, from damages inflicted on US cities by Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy or, afield, the Indian Ocean Tsunami and super-typhoon Haiyan.  The ecology of biophilic design, for all its benefits, could benefit from a broader global ecology, basing itself less on the benefits of human friendship with the biosphere, and being more oriented to global contexts of the cost of climactic shifts by looking back to the geography of the past–lest the affections of biophilia border on the bio-fetishism of the philistine.  The precepts of adaptation and resilience to mitigate bad policy decisions are of intense importance; historic maps offer base-lines to qualify the alienation of cities from their shores that compliment the need to build green and blue belts.  The maps we have drawn about urban areas may provide a basis to recuperate the integration of life along the shorelines we have lost, in short, and the nature and settlement of life along the city’s shore–as well as the ways that oceans serve less as a barrier to than interface with the shore.

While we map the trespass of waves over the finely drawn boundary lines of territories, measuring incursions across demarcated shorelines and property lines, and mourning the scope of damages and loss, we seem to remediate via maps–much as how OSM-mappers have begun to chart buildings and routes in the Philippines for delivering humanitarian supplies, as a way of rebuilding, if at first in virtual form–to restore urban infrastructures in digital form.

Mapping Tacloban via OSM

Yet these maps do not comprehend, for lack of a better word, the sea.  The terrible human costs of each of these events serve as something of an intimation of the threats global warming poses to urban environments, and invite rethinking notions of ‘planning’ replacing the imagined stability of  a built frontier of urban society with a more permeable line of inter-relations, even as we come to appreciate how little conscious “planning” went into the drawing of earlier boundary lines.  Both the human and material costs of these events compel an appreciation of the role of the shoreline, as well as intimations of the threats global warming poses to urban environments and indeed the world we have built.

Homes in Samar provinceReuters

Naturalists have recently begun to realize the power of maps to invite reexamination of our relations to place, however–often by using historical maps to excavate the shifting historical relation to the natural world that have led us to draw such finely parsed lines between planned urban environments and their surrounding waters to assess the costs of these sorts of fantasies of spatial distinction:  if we don’t build on the water, we cannot ignore it but at our collective peril.

Map offer a particularly precise if plastic means to situate place that are able to register deeper, less easily visualized, chronological changes and global contexts, or shifts within a regional ecosystem that would be otherwise difficult to conceive.  In age of rising oceans and global warming, maps draw relations between local settings and global changes to help assess the extent to which global warming threatens to obliterate or erode the stability of our concepts of place.  Maps of the circulation of waters around specific cities compel us to rethink an inherited oceanic boundary.

2.   Can a “blue architecture” invite us to re-imagine bifurcated schema of ordering of space to which we have reduced the relation between land and sea to a simply drawn line?  Or have we lost a relation to the land that a new building project cannot recover without clearer lenses to view the relation between water and planned environment, and to be invited to appreciate a clearer register of the relations between coastal cities and the surrounding sea, and, indeed, of the delicate interdependencies that are the basis for our sense of place, and underwrite how we imagine “place” as a category?  A historicized art of mapping stands to call attention to the ecosystem that might lurk beneath the threat of climactic change, and understand the changes they pose to local ecosystems.  The art of mapping provides unique tools to invite viewers to consider local settlements, and develop tools to re-imagine a relation to the sea new building projects alone cannot foster.

Sanderson's Base Map

We can appreciate the huge changes wrought in a relation to the shore by how a cartographical reconstruction of Manhattan island revealed in this stunning 1782 British Headquarters map drawn at the painstaking scale of 6 1/2 inches per mile reveals the island’s coastline as it was experienced by Lenape tribespeople.  Using the watercolor map as the base-map for his digital reconstruction of the local environment, landscape ecologist Eric W. Sanderson of the Wildlife Conservation Society worked over five years to create GIS database, geo-referencing landmarks and sites to reconstruct the forgotten landscape based on 200 control points.

Sanderson’s completed map has a beauty that invites viewers to explore a computer generated landscape’s verdant arboreal landscape and rich wildlife, moving with amazing apparent precision over a web of lost streams, rivers, and hills that agricultural and urban development erased over time–most all of the more than 570 that distinguished the island Lenape members to give the name “Mannahatta,” the ‘island of many hills,’ and to map over 627 varieties of plants in the island, and the 233 types of birds and 24 different mammals who lived in its delicate interstices of interlaced ecosystems, in its swamps, ponds and the estuaries of its shores.

The older shoreline strikingly engages one’s mental map of Manhattan’s shore.   It jar one’s notion of place, and shift the stability of shorelines, streets, and riverine banks within one’s head.  Superimposing data from a Google map visualization of the verdant forests, ponds, streams, and marshes before four centuries of landfill shrunk its coastal geography, the map reveals a huge change in place in a powerfully persuasive graphic form.

Indeed, the superimposition of the shifted maps–the street grid and coastal drives laid above the earlier contours of the island’s expanse– is compelling by the complex cognitive dissonance it creates, placing multi-lane expressways and drives on the expanded edges of the island, so that they run across the marshland estuaries of the Lower East Side or cut into the blue waters around the island, suggesting the actual de-naturing of the landscape even more than the de-naturing of place that all Google Mapping templates seem to afford–and far more eerily reminding us of the extent to which we’ve effectively distanced ourselves from the expanse that the island once occupied as well as the ecosystems that it held.

Welikia 1609 Map of Mannahatta

3.  The remove of the world of this island situated on merging saltwater and freshwater, and with a dynamic verdant ecology is apparent from Markley Boyer’s stupendous digitization, which recreates the island seen by Henry Hudson in 1609, and which, if not a map per se, compels us to both explore its content by mapping them against our own experiences and spatial imaginaries.  The almost palpable landscape invites us to explore its content, as if as it invited Henry Hudson and his men in:

Mannahatta's verdant paradise 1609
These now absent beaches, marshlands, and estuaries in the landscape offer a striking contrast to the current shore.

Mid-Manhattan
The integration of its coasts to the river echo the shorelines that John Randel, Jr. famously mapped in delicate watercolors in a detailed rendering of its many hills between 1818-20, even as the grid of streets was lightly traced and projected above a far less level urban topography, where the city descended in differently manners to the rivers and estuaries on its shorelines, most of which have been erased by time:
Randall Farm Maps

Boyer’s glorious digital reconstruction recreates the shimmering presence island of hills, rivers, and trees that Lenape knew in its speciated glory, mapping the messiness of that shore in ways that inspire a vision of or compelling case for the optimistic dream of restoration of these shores:
Mannahatta:Manhattan from south
4.   Maps offer persuasive forms to re-think cities’ relations to oceanic shores, perhaps more compellingly altering deeply set attitudes than new practices of planning to integrate more fluidly and esthetically water and land.  Although Beatley calls, at http://www.biophiliccities.org, for new attitudes to the surrounding world, and fostering a new culture of lifestyle, curiosity, and an integration of the tactile presence of the seas in “blue urbanism,” we  might better appreciate the nature of the frontier created between city and water not only in the benefits of immersive aquatic environments in cities, but respond to the absence even of registering seas in urban planning by examining how we came to map a disconnect between cities and ocean– and the cultural divide that has emerged between shore and urban space that was elaborated from the mid-nineteenth century, and is now deeply established by zoning, districting, EPA standards and urban planning texts.

In asking to extend our concepts of cities to the oceans that surround them, we might work not only to make new maps, but use old maps to be mindful of the need to extend our sense of place through the refiguration of urban spaces–noting how maps mark and register the depths of the cultural divide between urban and oceanic space, and examining maps to chart the losses of a shifting historical relation between the city and ocean.  Such a remapping of the city’s relation to the land is echoed in the recent interactive mapping project of Stamen Design, Surging Seas, which tracks rising sea-levels caused by storms or flash-floods, mapping sea levels in relation to the inhabited land–and visualizing a nine foot rise in sea-level of nine feet, here in lower Manhattan, based on data from Climate Central.

Stamen-TriState Submerging Seas
And the interactive site allows one to track what changes would happen if the sea-level were to rise it to a ten full ten:

Surging Seas--NYC, 10 Feet

5.  At a recent discussion in San Francisco’s Exploratorium about relations between land and sea promoting such a “Blue Urbanism,” the relations between place and global change rightfully gained considerable attention.   Most presentations focussed on specific examples of cities, but the problem was pressingly (and depressingly) relevant given the recent typhoon.  Occurring in a room exhibiting such splendid shifting nine-panel global color video projections, courtesy NASA’s LandSat satellite photographs or the Goddard Flight Center, of Global Precipitation Levels, Sea Surface Currents and Temperatures, Ocean Currents, or, below, Global Aerosols, they seemed to provide a unique context for rethinking the presence of the local in relation to the sea.  For only in rethinking built relations between land and sea, and the compartmentalization that led to the diffusion of aerosols, the shifting of water temperatures, and  changes in the level and salinity of oceans over the past one hundred years, can we measure the human footprints already left on environment.

Global Aerosols Exploratorium

One such remapping of such relations and attitudes might begin from maps, it began to appear–and from the inspiration maps might provide to remap relation around San Francisco, not only by seeing how space was filled by the city–or the urban conquest of space–but rather how the negotiation of the boundary with the sea was based on spatial practices of such longstanding nature, entailing and perhaps rooted in the representational practices of defining space as an area of settlement and urban planning–and a practice of planning that sees space as filled up by housing projects that cut off the marine space of the sea.

The projected maps on plasma screens raised questions of how to rethink the sedimentation of such deeply set cultural practices, if only by providing a context for the dramatic remapping of urban environments at a remove from the ocean’s ebb and flow–or relate place to a far broader context of environmental change.   When Rebecca Solnit recently offered a haunting analogy between global warming to the processes of gentrification that threaten the fabrics of urban neighborhoods–both occurring with blinders to the overall structure and coherence ecosystems, whether the social ecosystem of urban space or global ecologies, and of removing oneself from our role in creating a scenario of global warming or urban change.

6.  The history of spatiality and of spatial practices that define the city may suffer, one soon realized, from the separation of such “spatial practices” from an appreciation of urban environments.  The circumscription of the spatial is partly inherited from the conceptually pioneering–if idealizing– strain of thought in the work of the French sociologist Henri Lefebvre, whose notion of in The Production of Space was rooted in an Aristotelian or Kantian categorization of space as a human creation.  For when Lefebvre distinguished forms of apprehension among social practices, representations of space, and symbolic models of spatial representation, he refined how Aristotle cast position as a category of human apprehension and Kant affirmed space as an attribute of human judgement–rather than an ecological space of multiple species’ interaction, or indeed of biological overlap.  Instead of commodifying space from a human point of view, we fail to register either local specificity or the density of coexistence around place:  maps can return attention to all too often forgotten margins of settlements, and effectively reconstitute place in a greater environment.  A similarly broad sense of the sea-shore as a “primeval meeting place of the elements of earth and water, a place of compromise and conflict and eternal change,” as much as opposition, was suggested by Rachel Carson, who suggested the basis for understanding the shorelines by “the long rhythms of earth and sea that sculptured its land forms and produced the rock and sand of which it is composed”–and the biological communities specific to each.  She chose a map of the Gulf Stream as a sort of emblem for the situated knowledge of the shore, using a version of the 1769 chart of Benjamin Franklin based on the working knowledge of a Nantucket sailor, Timothy Folger, that is the end-paper for her 1950 The Sea Around Us; Carson praised the map for transmitting understanding of ocean currents–and for the first time locating the course of the equatorial Gulf Stream, or “Gulph Stream,” on a map, in ways that embodied a tacit familiarity with the flow that many sailors well knew, but which Franklin, as Postmaster General, was frustrated to find absent from any chart.

seaarndusop2
The recovery of the rare original Franklin-Folger map showed a pointedly less centrally defined Gulf Stream than the composite map reprinted above, but illuminated a new need for mapping oceanic expanse–in this case, for the postmaster general to elucidate the greater time needed to traverse the Atlantic from England, which world maps or charts had long excluded, in failing–or, more accurately, not knowing how–to map the seas.

Franklin- Map

7.  The question then becomes how to adequately map the seas, as much as urban space.  The ability to register and communicate familiarity with place–and with a watery space–is particularly lacking in most urban maps.  The absence is a considerable difficulty for adequately registering knowledge of the sea on its own terms, or the shoreline and its inhabitants.

Or can we use maps to register a shifting knowledge of the ocean’s shore?  One charge for spatial history would be to excavate the construction of space in different environmental contexts.  If it is to extend beyond the recapitulation of space as a human construction, “space” might be more adequately placed in a global–and less of a human–context by recognizing and affirming space as an ecological category.  One place to start would include the negotiation of deeply set cultural categories of division and differentiation that are framed in maps, taking the map as a human artifact–rather than a representation or a practice, a model of interaction that conditioned and provides evidence of lived experienced.  For the tendency to idealize space at an Apollonian remove–an image perpetuated, to be sure, in maps which subject the cognition of space to human understanding–abstracts space as a category of apprehension, rather than registering the density of interaction through a suitably “thick mapping” across boundaries, borders, and regional change that recuperate buffer zones, watersheds, and shorelines we have lost–in ways the art of mapping is uniquely suited to portray.

The challenge of recuperating the network of estuaries and streams that once surrounded the low-lying areas around the San Francisco Bay, for example, might negotiate with how we constitute the terrain for urban life by drawing a clear divide from the surrounding waters–or the perpetuation of the fantasy of drawing a clearly demarcated line dividing water and land.  Rising seas once flooded a river valley to create San Francisco Bay, whose many inhabitants  long existed in relation to a less clearly defined shore.  Maps can reveal how humans have interacted with the Bay over time that created deep mental barriers to interaction.   One can trace the shoreline moving in hundreds of feet inland, and slowing in past centuries to but a millimeter a year, or a city block over the last century, as a  shape-shifting feature with which bay residents have negotiated in different ways since a time when people lived near the bay, and negotiated with its salty marshlands, as a map of native American Shell Heaps that ring the bay eloquently reveals by noting the clear buffer zones that inhabitants created on beaches to meet rising tides.

BayShellmounds 001

The maps registers crucial details of the negotiation with marshlands and wetlands now lost or recently restored, outlining an image of interaction with the sea that is not immediately recognizable, and difficult to negotiate with our own changed landscape.

The particular coastal region near El Cerrito indicates the building up of these mounds to create a permeable barrier from the resident crustaceans along the marshlands running from north of Albany Hill to behind Point Isabel–now landfill, then a remote rock in the Bay.

BayShellmoundsCerrito)

The salt marshes, and the five creeks that fed them, are evident in this detail of the 1856 US Coastal Survey:

Salt Marshes

Yet as people moved inland from an 1850 shoreline was reduced by almost a third all of a sudden in last fifty years in a quite rapid and decisive manner, to create a new sense of the stability of the shoreline that segregated land and sea which will be particularly challenging now with the rise of sea levels projected global warming.  The illusory stability of the shoreline is however inevitable . . .  and the bay on track to expand again by 2100, to return to its size of 1850, in ways that pose disastrous consequences for such overbuilt regions of low elevations.  All low-lying areas are threatened by this projected expansion of the ocean, from Foster City to the treatment plants near to the Bay, to Oakland and San Francisco’s low-lying airports . . . and Oakland’s port.  In cities with waste facilities, oil tanks, refineries, ports and airports lie close to the water, as in Richmond, Oakland, the Carquinez Strait and Albany, ocean waters pose very real environmental threats illustrated by the tsunami’s breaching of the Fukushima Daini power plant.

8.  Can we redesign the shoreline differently?  Observing these low-lying areas that stand in close relation to the water in this map of 1850, we might consider the importance of beaches that can constitute a natural buffer to the shore, and the need for restoring their role as transitional zones and regions that has been so precipitously eroded in our environment.  For the erosion of such transitional spaces–and the overbuilding of the shores–has rendered more vulnerable low-lying areas such as Albany, Emeryville, Oakland or El Cerrito, encouraging blinders about the potential possibilities of future risk.

Sandy beaches that once circled San Francisco similarly served as barriers to the encroachment of the sea.  The loss of beachfront corresponded to a huge expansion of reclamation by landfill, and a resulting loss of estuaries, widely known around the Marina, and evident in the expansion of the city’s shores from an 1895 USGS topographic survey:

Lost Land SF-Historical Creeks and Shore marina detail

The loss of estuaries, creeks, and rivers in the entire peninsula of San Francisco since 1895 is less well-known, but even more dramatic:

SF Built Out:Loss from 1895 Topo

Will the process of getting to know the shoreline again provide a way to make them stable barriers once again?  Will we be able to provide natural resources by fluvial deltas, and support the growth of these buffer zones to do better on a second chance, by expanding an estuary system linking to the ocean that was so drastically mis-designed in the 1950s, when it was even proposed–if the proposal was reversed–to pour more landfill into the Bay, and re-zone the estuary, in order to fill an expanding housing market?

Bay or Rivewr

While it was not so prominent as the urban planners had proposed, the dramatic loss of such crucial buffer zones as tidal wetlands is evident in a comparison of first coastal survey of 1850  in this overlay of coastal maps, courtesy the San Francisco Estuary Institute, detailing the configuration of the coastline as it was and as we have made it,  over the century and a half of urban growth throughout the Bay Area–and the dangers that this poses:

baynature_829

The map cannot begin to conjure the shifting dynamic within the landscape and ecosystem we have lost–although the system of dykes and landfill suggests the beginning of the possible excavations of a lost shoreline.

This image of the expansion of the city’s urban claims to housing derives from a cultural and deeply anti-ecological view of the city as a site of stability–and ocean was seen as a site of antagonism on which, in the domesticated image of the bay, the city could rightfully expand–and the estuary be recast as a river to accommodate housing needs.   In starting to change our attitudes to our shorelines, and to view them as sites for other residents and as permeable barriers, we might start from changing our attitudes to the sea:  and remember, with Rachel Carson, that it is through our expansion of the “artificial” nature of cities that we have forgotten and somewhat brazenly rewritten our relation to the shoreline and the sea.

florida-coastline

Maps, of course, forge bridges between nature and culture in provocatively engaging ways–and engage viewers by mapping these relationships.  If we are starting to remap place in provocatively interactive ways, the challenge is to best map the shifting relation between place and the global changes that call for an extensive remapping of place within the world.

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November 14, 2013 · 10:19 am

Mapping the New World from France: Savages, Vegetables, Animals, Pelts

We often can’t detect traces of cartographers in their maps.  Yet Samuel de Champlain left multiple clues concerning his new world encounters the maps of New France printed between 1612 to 1632 in Paris.  Champlain’s experiences are not encrypted in emblems, moreover, but explicitly recorded in his depiction of a territory whose rivers he opened for navigation and commerce through a set of maps printed in Paris, as well as by actions as a proxy of the French realm.

Champlain mapped the interior of New France as Hydrographer Royal shortly after he gained the charge to secure trading rights in New France from about 1602, which led to some twelve sojourns in the New World from 1603-35.  His encounters are not only noted but prepared for a French audience of readers in his maps:  and while Champlain is cast as an explorer, so much as tracking his own exploration of the region, the multiple maps he designed and printed in Paris staged graphically dense appeals for the New World’s settlement, not only marking outposts of French settlement, but investing value in a region earlier described as “frozen wilderness” as a land of viable trading partners, rich in beaver and otter pelts, cod, and fruits–mapping the New World, as it were, from France.  Whereas the prolific cartographer Giacomo Gastaldi had provided the earliest qualitative map of the region of the “Terra del Labrador” and “La Nuova Francia” in 1556, synthesizing nautical maps probably made from those of Jacques Cartier with rich qualitative details of the region an its inhabitants, as well as its plenitude of marine fish, the abundance of islands and crisscrossing rivers suggested a need for navigating by canoes, more than an outpost of easy nautical approach, but a richly peopled region.

1556 Gastaldi Nuova Francia

When Champlain returned to the region Jacques Cartier had more cursorily mapped in his 1545 “nauigation faicte es ysles de Canada, Hochelaga, et Saguenay” by expanding the account in Cartier’s Brief recit & succincte narration of his travels up the river, using the toponyms known to Europeans through Cartier’s account, to expand detailed cartographical canvasses  whose rationales for its settlement were adopted by missionaries to make their own arguments of conversion.  As he travelled on what we know call the St. Lawrence, for Champlain “la riviere de Canada,” he incorporated native Amerindian accounts to map the resources of New France.  Champlain’s hidden need was to present both an image of Amerindians as potential trading partners, and to present an image of the territories as open to future settlement that expanded the manuscript journals of Cartier, themselves published in 1598, unlike the wild regions Cartier had earlier so evocatively charged, after he had returned from Canada with two indigenous from the Gaspé peninsula, before on his second voyage bringing several Iriquois chiefs and the promise of a route that extended west and promised passage to China, by Francis I in 1541 to travel to lands of “men living without knoweldge of God or use of reason [vivans sans cognoissance de Dieu e Sans usaige de raison.”  The colorful maps that were drawn of the river known as the St. Lawrence offered graphic visual testimony and illustration of “sauvages” who wore no recognizable clothes  and lived outside walled settlements.

Vallard Atlas extract on hung

Champlain presented himself as an intermediary to the New World, echoing his Old Testament given name of a prophet, visionary and seer, called by God to be an advisor to Kings, as a prophet of new worlds.  he cultivated the image of a prophet who advised the nation fit the role Champlain styled himself as an intermediary of judging areas of potential trade in the New World.  From the time he served as a captain of a Spanish ship to “Porto Rico,” Mexico, Colombia, the Bermudas (Santo Domingo) and Panama to the persuasive images of regions that he mapped for French settlement from 1603–travels described in his 1604 “Des Sauvages: ou voyage de Samuel Champlain, de Brouages, faite en la France nouvelle l’an 1603 [Concerning the Primitives: Or Travels of Samuel Champlain of Brouages, Made in New France in the Year 1603].  Although the title was probably chosen by the printer, as perhaps the name New France, the term for the Amerindians colored the reception and diffusion of the “Sauvage,” a term later invested with connotations not only of incivility or wildness, of lacking habitations, material possessions, or even wearing cloths, but of such absolute and deep-set difference so that by the mid-seventeenth-century Jesuits as Allouez asserted Europeans doubted the ability even to convert Amerindians to true Christians.  The challenge later missionaries adopted cast the task of ‘civilizing’ as necessary precedent to evangelization–a recognition that “qu’il faut rendre les sauvages raisonnable” before their conversion, as Fénelon wrote in 1671, combined their nomadism or lack of stable residence with indigenous tribes’ recognition of French territorial sovereignty of the land.

Montaigne played with the very term when he had sought to reason on the relation of New France (Brazil) and his own readers’ habits in the 1580 essay “Des cannibales” that the Greeks called all foreign nations “barbares,” the inhabitants of what we call South America “there is nothing barbarous and savage in that region [n’ya reinde barbare et de sauvage en cette nation], from what I have been told, except that each man calls barbarism [barbarie] whategver is not in his own practice.”  “Ils sont sauvages, de mesmes que nous apellons sauvages les fruicts que nature, de soy et de son progrez ordinaire, a produicts,” Montaigne famously played on the word that Champlain used, noting the “vitality and vigor” of their “virtues and properties”  as not yet debased “to gratify our corrupted taste” [les avont seulement accommodées au plaisir de nostre goust corrompu].  (For Montaigne, rather than being truly “barbarous” are so in the sense they are “fashioned very little by the human mind, and are still very close to their original naturalness [pour avoir redeu fort peu de façon de lesprit humain, et estre encore fort voisines de leur naïvfité originelle],” as if to invert customary standards of judgment that Champlain relied upon:  their laws are more natural than ours; we may indeed today lack the ability to judge the purity of their lives, lacking altogether the esteem for artifice that dominates France, or ability to esteem the absence of occupations, wealth and poverty, or servitude, as well, he extrapolates, vices of lying, dissimulation, slander, envy, or indeed belittling, or the violence of firearms and bodily violence in their wars.   While Montaigne surmises with reference to the defiance captured indigenous show to their torturers, he surmises that not only is cannibalism of a dead man not less barbarous than physical torture before acknowledging if these men are indeed savages—by our standards; for either they must be or we must be: there is an amazing gulf between their souls and ours [voilà des hommes bien sauvages; . . . il y a un merveilleuse distance entre leur forme et la nostre].”  The marvel of the New World whose inhabitants were displayed at court become, in Montaigne’s hands, a “wonderful distance” or “amazing gulf” between the inhabitants.

The conceit of a distance that was not so much spatial as cultural contested the prejudgments made on the civilization of the indigenous of New France.  Champlain’s map made good on a similar promise of the purity of direct contact with the New World that Montaigne had placed in a man who was more familiar discussing with merchants and sailors than men of law.  Champlain was the very ‘honest broker’ of information akin to the travel Montaigne trusted rather than cosmographers.  “Sauvages” described the depths of otherness which habits of eating “wild food” that went uncooked to the nomadism and lack of religion that missionaries returned repeatedly in describing Amerindian life as utterly foreign to Europe or European culture.  The evocative title that the printer gave to Champlain’s account of his encounters  transformed the search for natural resources conducted after the governor of Dieppe, Aymar de Chaste, asked the Royal Hydrographer to help expand his monopoly on the fur trade at the trading post of Tadoussac, based on Cartier’s accounts, and then, after de Chaste’s death, from 1604-7, plan the settlement of Acadia to make good on its Governor’s patent on trading rights.

Whereas the Vallard atlas offered an inviting illustration of the benefits of settlement along the riverine network with potential Amerindian trading partners, Champlain’s maps of 1604, 1608, and 1638 compiled convincing arguments for the logic of New France’s settlement, based both on the Dictionary that Cartier had compiled and the even more intense engagement of native Amerindians that he believed would both secure a monopoly in the fur trade and, as he sought to learn from them a convincing route and, after his 1612 commission, to “search for a free passage by which to reach the country called China.”  The potential of such a route had been long advanced in the Ortelian 1570 “Typus Orbis Terrarum,” but was not cartographically realized, as the interior of “Nova Francia” was left unmapped beyond Cartier’s account, through the de Jode map of 1589.

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Ortelius' Nove Francia

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Terra Incognita, de Jode

Champlain was trained as a nautical cartographer, but unlike the pictorial maps prepared from nautical charts in the French Dieppe school, whose pictorial images attracted nautical exploration in ways I’ve discussed, Champlain’s printed maps invited a French readers to examine a region about which there was particular curiosity.  The chorography of New France that Champlain prepared as hydrographer to Henri IV  detailed not both a less imagined view of the region’s topography and navigability, and mapped the inhabitants of  North America with considerable care:  in his map, Champlain combined both his own surveys and charts with knowledge of the region’s inhabitants and habitation gathered from native Innu peoples who lived there–known by Champlain as the Montaignais and Etechimani–whose inhabitation of the region was poorly mapped and previously “unknown.”

Champlain’s map made the land New France, although the title that he chose for his book “voyages en France nouvelle” of 1608 seems to have been chosen, as its discussion of “Sauvages,” by a publisher, in ways that led the map to refract more meanings than Champlain might have understood–and quite soon after its appearance beyond the charge to open the St. Lawrence valley for French settlement.

map new franceb

Yet if the title of the book, not surviving in editions with the map that seems intended to accompany it, he was clearly fascinated by native cultures, only later linking the “Sauvage” to the pagan, and believe in transforming Amerindians through Catholic conversion and intermarriage with the French in ways that were probably informed by his increased contact with and dependence on missionaries by the 1630s.

In the map of New France he had engraved in 1612, an expansive chorographical or regional map of New France, detailed the coasts of islands that he had first travelled among extensively along its coast and the riverine network to the Great Lakes he first saw or described–and whose path Champlain pursued to gain the most complete monopoly of the fur trade, rather than the search for silver and gold that the French king hoped to pursue, which increasingly come to subsidize his expeditions.  In shifting the mapping of New France from a tradition of nautical charting to the medium of terrestrial mapping, Champlain both gave his maps richly ethnographic material functions that allowed him to stage broader arguments for the region’s future exploration, even as he continued to raise the possibility and promise of mapping routes of trade to the east by a Northwest passage.

The engraved regional map of New France detailed the coasts of islands that he had first travelled among extensively along its coast and the riverine network to the Great Lakes he first saw or described as he sought to gain advantages in the fur trade.  The current exhibit Moving with the River organized at Ottawa’s Museum of Civilization examines the role played by the St. Lawrence River in Canadian identity from its place as an avenue of Champlain’s contact and alliance with native peoples.  Yet the maps Champlain made for French readers pivot from nautical maps of coasts of Acadia and Newfoundland, to parlay skills of mapping developed on the west coast of France and in voyages to the Indies, to exploiting the legibility terrestrial map-making to chart future ties of trade and eventual intermarriage of peoples.

His expansive maps of the region and its inhabitants shifted his brief from mapping sites of settlement in New France to mapping inland avenues for trade on a web of rivers and lakes.  The maps demand specific attention, in other words, for how they provided a compelling record of the region for French readers by introducing them to it alternately as a site for potential settlement, commerce, and conversion–combining the ends of mapping and combining several formats of mapping that had often been previously held distinct competencies or forms of expertise and subject-matter.  In an almost improvisational way, Champlain was adapting his mapping techniques for new audiences that the printed maps might address.  Whereas Champlain’s initial project of nautical mapping echoed a conception of Canada voiced Marguerite of Navarre, who saw “Canada” as an island (and possible obstacle to voyage to the orient), the engravings that he provided during his many trips to the region re-mapped an image of the region as an area of trade and settlement, embodying a network of routes of trade around where he founded the first French cities in the New World.

The map that he designed in 1608 redefined French readers’ relation to the New World in a magisterial synthesis of nautical and terrestrial cartography, bridging charting and surveying to map the mouth of the river that Cartier had earlier entered to the inland region known as the Great Lakes that would be so profitable for fur trading, after he concluded a lasting peace with native tribes to allow French settlement.

The map suggests a new sense of having mapped lasting peace in New France.  A lower left cartouche conspicuously mapped the inhabitants of the region from whom Champlain he was asked to make a treaty with and from whom he learned so much.  Champlain not only conducted peace with the Montaignais, but relied on native accounts to map much of the Great Lakes–trusting Algonquin accounts of the upper St. Lawrence and eastern Great Lakes, openly seeking them out to map of the region from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie, and mapping its imagined relation to a great saltwater sea.  Although it is doubtful he traveled beyond the current site of Montreal on the St. Lawrence, where he began to write his text–but amplified the map beyond where he had traveled by incorporating Algonquin accounts obtained in 1603–the imagined expanse of New France created a New World with the hint of the promise of a North-West passage, and ample evidence of trading partners along the river’s path.

map new franceb

Champlain’s printed account of 1608 consciously exploited the term of “Sauvages” or ‘forest-dwellers’ popularized by the arrival at the royal French court of native North Americans.  The term was not derogatory, but described the forest-dwellers who since an alliance of 1602 had helped orient himself in the region, and whose considerable attention after their visit to the royal court increased the interest in the work he prepared at just short of thirty years, Des Sauvages: ou voyage de Samuel Champlain, de Brouages, faite en la France nouvelle l’an 1603 [“Concerning the Primitives: Or Travels of Samuel Champlain of Brouages, Made in New France in the Year 1603“].  Indeed, the term–if introduced by his publisher, advertised his status as a privileged informant, more than a map-maker, that echoed his first post aiding a secret agent and  member of the royal household in Brittany.

Champlain styled himself as a principal informant about New World life for the French public.  At roughly the same time Native Peoples arrived at Henry IV’s court and piqued interest in “Sauvages” among court figures, the striking title capitalized on wide curiosity in the figure of the New World Native, rather than as a derogatory term, in ways that opened the map to further readings as a site of conversion and commerce alike, calling the natives likely to welcome Catholic colonizers from France for the order that they would provide, and concepts of prayer they would introduce, even if “most of them live like brute beasts” (1603:  117) and often in ritual dances “stripped themselves stark naked” (1603: 107-8; 180).  Champlain wrote admiringly of their government, costumes, nautical knowledge and bravery, offering that “I hold that they would quickly become good Christians if their lands were colonized [je tiens que qui leur monstreroit à vivre & enseigner le labourage des terres, & autres choses, ils l’apprendroient fort bien],” his work would in ways provoke debates about the possibility of conversion for Jesuits, and about the limits of converting, civilizing or “Frenchifying [franciser]” Amerindian natives.  When Champlain sought to teach Amerindians the nature of a beneficent God and the efficacy of prayer to Amerindians, he presented their absence of religious ceremonies as akin to their absence of law , but did not see why this could be changed:  “You see why I believe they have no laws, nor know what it means to worship and pray to God [je croy qu’il n’y a aucune loy parmy eux, ne sçavent que c’est d’adorer & prier Deu],” he wrote; yet “I believe that they would be quickly brought round to being Good Christians if their lands were colonized, which they might well mostly desire [croy que promptement ils seroient reduicts bons Chretiens si l’on habitoit leurs terres, ce qui’ils desireroient la plus part].”  (Only later, among debates between the limits of conversion to French customs among Recollect and Jesuit missionaries, did the notion of a “sauvage” become associated with a pagan.)

Champlain’s richly ethnographic account provided little sense of natives’ nobility, but his images of these warriors–the Montaignais had encouraged the French to be their allies against the Iroquois–reflected in his sustained interest in “their countries . . . and forms of assembly,” as well as their songs, clothing, hunting practices, food, tobacco, and snowshoes, as well as hairstyles, public oratory and dance-steps.

Champlain’s dependence on native accounts of the region led to his expansion of ties with natives on the Saguenay River that Cartier had earlier encountered.  Indeed, in 1602 Champlain concluded a treaty or peace with the natives that he called the Montaignais, native Americans on the St. Lawrence’s shoreline and Labrador and Quebec and those he called the Etchemin [Maliseet], and later the Algonquin, admiring the superior quality of their furs to those he had seen in the future Nova Scotia; Henri II eagerly founded the Acadia and Canada Company and granted it a monopoly on the fur trade which Champlain was to help protect.  The map recorded to some extent the longest-standing alliance Europeans created with Natives–or “sauvages,” as he put it–to that point, much as Champlain himself discussed their “nations” and treated their leaders as heads of state.  The “sauvages” who Champlain had ‘tamed’ were displayed in the map, as something of a token of what he saw as his accomplishment:  it seems that two of these peoples had returned from France while as he was in Tadoussac, increasing the possibility of the alliance, as did a treaty against their Iroquois enemies–dragging the French into a conflict lasting through the eighteenth century.

For Champlain, the engraved map was a complex and subtle register to mediate his encounter with New World, unlike the pictorialized charts of the Dieppe school before Champlain’s birth that rendered natives hunts such as the  “Vallard” atlas.

Harleian Map c. 1542-44

Although the atlases of the Dieppe school, as Vallard atlas above from the Huntington, or the Harleian Map, presented enticing images of natives along green river-banks, attempting to attract interest in their settlement through images of peaceful relations with local inhabitants Champlain’s maps promoted the settlement of a region poorly known to Europeans still “Terra Incognita” as late as 1589, if contiguous with New France, as in this Dutch map of Cornelis de Jode, one of the competitors with the French in the potentially lucrative fur trade, as well as in the charts of Nicolas Nicolai’s Isolario for Henri II.

Terra Incognita:AMerica

The map Champlain drafted of the interior contrasted strongly to the routes of potential Atlantic trade that Nicolas Nicolai, predecessor as royal hydrographer for Henri II, created to foreground routes of potential trade, which plotted routes to North America in his Isolario and 1548 Navigazioni del mondo novo, reprinted through the late 1560s, whose paucity of detail revealed limited knowledge of the Montaignais at the mouth of the Saguenay and only vague knowledge of anything about the land through with the river’s course runs, and focus on the Indies as a locus of trade, limiting New France to the mouth of the St. Lawrence.

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ca 1565 gastaldi map

In the series of maps that he made which provide something of his increased encounters with New World natives, and search for new potential trading partners, Champlain shifted his sights dramatically to the unknown rivers of the interior that he explored not by ship–as he was familiar from his first voyages of 1598, but by canoe.  After several natives the French knew as the Montaignais or “mountain-people” had travelled to the French court of Henry IV, popularizing the term–and category–Champlain adopted the term of New World curiosities as subjects worthy of description and mediation in a map.

The geographic and ethnographic detail in Champlain’s map of 1608 reflect not only curiosity with the figure of the “Sauvage,” but Champlain’s decisive engagement in tribal disputes in attempting to secure fur trading rights–as well as rivers’ course.  The map reflected not only the considerable inter-breeding of French settlers and fishermen with the nomadic natives they called “mountain-men” or mountaineers because of their knowledge of the hills at the mouth of the St. Lawrence, and since the contact promised further knowledge of the region. Rather than follow the precedent of nautical map, familiar in from the picturesque images of “Canada” in the manuscript atlases of the Dieppe school whose pictorial images had promoted the material benefits nautical exploration from the time of Champlain’s childhood, or maps of the New World that first circulated in engraved in France.  Unlike these maps, Champlain’s maps situated the Atlantic islands around modern Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy on meridians in ways that gave a material presence to the northern expanses of North America to Hudson Bay and past Lake Ontario, in ways that offered readers a material record of geographic fixity as well as documenting the goods, mapping both products and routes for future mercantile expansion in the New World for which Henry IV was so desirous, by placing its inhabitants as crucial figures who might both be converted to Catholicism and be active partners in colonial trade.  (The legend continued far after the settlement of Canada:  Claude Levi-Strauss remembered in Tristes Tropiques that an older Frenchmen described the Nambikwara as “sauvages“–and never otherwise—as if “on l’eût cru débarqué en quelque Canada, aux côtés de Cartier ou de Champlain.”  Levi-Strauss may have made a similar connection in contemplating their “sauvagerie” when describing his arrival at a land “as large as France and three-quarters unexplored,” by filled with nomadic indigenous peoples.)

Although Champlain’s first mission as Royal Hydrographer seemed to have been to establish a permanent seat of settlement for France in the New World, his maps both lent greater fixity to place; if Cosgrove suggested that the “geographic indeterminacy [of islands] also increased their imaginative resonance,” Champlain’s New France supplanted the colored islands on the edges of earlier world maps with newly determined coordinates.  Indeed, he noted routes of trade and objects of interest with far more restraint than the abundance of fantastic creatures in marine maps of northern seas like the chart that the Swedish patriot and priest Olaus Magnus drafted as a comprehensive visual geographic history of Scandinavia and surrounding waters in 1538, with Roman artisans, as a graphic register of the arctic seas.

Carta Marina

The maps printed in Paris that traced Champlain’s explorations of North America for French readers mirrored a shift from a nautical network of travel around the coasts of Newfoundland and the present Nova Scotia, where he founded the first French cities in the New World of Port-Royal and St.-Croixe as outposts of trade in minerals or furs.

Champlain (1604-1607)

The terrestrial maps that Champlain would later design reflect a shift form a network of routes of nautical travel, seeking to found outposts for trading ports in the New World, to a search for inland connections to new networks of trade in furs to secure the monopoly on the fur trade that Jacque Cartier described:  a position from which he sought to both better understand and present a convincing picture of a network of trade in the interior.  After years spent mapping possible seats of France’s first city or entrepot in the New World in Acadia, Maine, the Bay of Fundy, and even down to Cape Cod, Champlain had returned to France to print the map–the precursor of subsequent printed maps of 1612, 1631 and 1638, each of which seems to punctuate twenty-one voyages Champlain made to the New World–and turned his attention to the interior, a decision that probably encouraged him to decide to attract Jesuit missionaries  from 1614 to help establish colonies in New France.

Champlain’s terrestrial maps of 1608, 1613 and 1637 present gradual  syntheses of the assiduous reconnaissance in a New World he visited over in twenty voyages, each giving greater materiality to the project of exploring and settling New France.  The intense return to map-making suggests a new attempt to define the primacy of a Francophone version of the medium of maps, as well as to seek increased funding and support of his own voyages and contact with natives in the New World.  If Champlain was indeed raised as a Huguenot, as suggested in archival research of baptismal records which place his family in La Rochelle, it is striking that his detailed map distinctly privileged the legibility of the New World more than the maps he drew on the basis of his earlier voyages to the Barbadoes and Indies as commander of a Spanish ship:  the detailed prospect that they presented for exploring lines of contact with Natives placed him among the Huguenot ministers Henri IV cultivated to develop his kingdom’s economy and infrastructure, but to do so in the new setting of New France, much as the Sieur de Monts, a Calvinist, had been granted the rights to the territory of Acadia (Nova Scotia), by Henri IV, “to cultivate, to cause to be peopled, and to search for gold and silver mines from the forty-sixth to the fortieth degree North latitude,” despite his Calvinism–enjoining him to teach Catholicism to the Micmac natives.  (It also placed him in a coterie of suspected reformists who include Ortelius, among those who stressed the transparency of the map as a printed text.)  The religious background of Champlain may be striking, given his close cooperation with Jesuits and other orders, but seems echoed his sailing with Récollet missionaries in 1615, a small group of reformed Friars Minor repressed in the French Revolution, who arrived in Quebec City, and only later with Jesuit missions in Acadia and in Ontario and Quebec from 1609.  (The Récollet were far more hopeful of introducing French customs to Amerindians than their Jesuits brethren.)

The image of New World natives indeed strongly contrast to the striking image he had earlier described, when sailing to Santo Domingo as commander of a Spanish ship, of the horrors of witnessing burning of unconverted natives–no doubt a scene that haunted him–and provided a model for cultivating new models of exchange in New France.

Inquisition in Champlain's MS from Journal JCB

The stunning and particularly striking image from the Brief Discours documented the torture of natives who did not convert to Catholicism at the hands of the Spanish, “Indians Burned by the Inquisition,” must have stuck in Champlain’s mind as an opposition of pagan and European–he argued the “evil treatment” that caused Indians to flee to the hills at the Spaniards’ approach, he noted in a manuscript in collections of the John Carter Brown Library.  In contrast, existing intermarriage among natives and French sailors created less of a duality of otherness if not a greater appreciation of cultural difference.

The 1598-1601 manuscript “Breif discours” about his travels to the Indies included a prized description of the local dragons that Champlain described as indigenous to the region, as Susan Danforth of the John Carter Brown has also noted, whose care reveals his deep attention to preserving a record based most likely on native accounts–“dragons of strange shape, having a head approaching to that of an eagle, wings like a bat, a body like a lizard and only two rather large feet, the tail somewhat scaly” who are in appearance “as large as a sheep, but not dangerous, and do no harm to anybody, though to see them one would say the contrary.”  While Champlain probably did not see these dragons, pictured in his manuscript below, they were a central to his description, and his care at their description echoed the interest in fantastic creatures in the New World, which later informed his later striking descriptions of the Gougou in the Bay of Chaleur, a “terrible monster” male but “in the form of a woman, but very frightful, and so large that the masts of a sailing vessel would not reach [her] waist” which “possessed pockets” on her body where the Gougou stored its captives before eating them.

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If his account is only slightly incredible, Champlain similarly trusted his native informants accounts of the Gougou, from whom several natives told him of their escape, and others of having heard the Gougou’s “horrible noises” as they passed by its home:  “What makes me believe what they say,” Champlain wrote, “is the fact that all the savages fear it, and tell such strange things about it that if I were to record all they say it would be regarded as a myth; but I hold that this is the dwelling place of some devil that torments them”–translating the legend into a Christian cosmology, as much as in credulous tones.  He did not draw the Gougou in his maps, but readily included information from a range of local informants.

Although Champlain’s continued dependence on native informants, including the Montaignais and Etechemani, depicted in the 1608 map as we have seen.  Their relation to the French were no doubt closer than many may have realized:  members of these tribes who allied with the French increasingly may have intermarried with French settlers, becoming the first New World allies of French after their decisive conclusion of peace in 1603–described in the Museum of Civilization as the first durable peace with New World natives.  The treaty must have blurred such clear oppositions among natives brooked by earlier cartographers, if they did not explicitly return to the map as collaborators or co-authors if not guides.  His subsequent dependence on native informants may have further encouraged by the intermarriage of Montaignais and Etechemani, the New World allies of French from 1603, with traders and sailors, and led Champlain to dignify them as noble warriors–and to study their arts of oratory, politics, and political order, as well as their dress.  The cartouche blurred such clear oppositions, increasing the subjectivity of these warriors more as objects of curiosity than as collaborators or co-authors of his maps.

Figures des montaignais

Indeed, they suggest Champlain’s hope to pursue a lucrative trade in furs that Cartier hoped to secure.  For Champlain, the map was a complex and subtle register to mediate his own encounter with New World.  Indeed, the rich detail of the maps of the Dieppe school, like the fantastic maps of mountains of Nutmeg and Cinnamon in the imaginary continent of Java la Grande conjured in maps of the Dieppe school–discussed in an earlier post–may have lead Champlain to promote equivalent trading routes, and map the imagined wealth of trade routes that would nurture an imagined French empire, and  to place images of sought-after beavers and otters which populate the surface of he prepared in his 1612 map.

map new franceb

Similar dreams of trade motivated the creation of these promotional atlases to win sponsorship and support of future voyages, to an extent realized when Champlain gained far more extensive privileges and support to expand the fur trade.  The engraved maps Champlain composed during over twenty voyages to the New World turn attention from the charting of routes of sea-travel where France might establish a seat of maritime investigation to upriver trade on what is now the St. Lawrence or “rivière de Canada.”

His Travels in 1613

His maps from 1613 most always were left rivers as the St. Lawrence and Hudson Bay conveniently open-ended, as if to suggest the possibility of linking areas of trade and bodies of water by transcontinental navigation along a North-West passage that responded to his charge, and secured further voyages in the New World he increasingly adopted as his charge and of which he became raconteur and rapporteur.  In seeking to establish trade with native peoples led him to travel for reasons of commerce, as much as exploration, he charted advantageous sites for dominating the fur-trade from the Saguenay to the St. Lawrence, and inland to the  lakes later named the Huron, Erie and Ontario, of which he learned from Native informants, encountering natives on the great river who remembered Cartier’s arrival and capture of their chief almost seventy years earlier but were eager to cultivate trading ties, choosing the city of Stadacona as a center of trade and describing its lands as uninhabited.  Champlain’s far more expansive map of 1613 presented a comprehensive case for joining the nautical exploration of the shores, with their rich marine fish, to travels into the interior, with its rich traffic in beaver pelts, on an accurate meridian; it also prefigured Champlain would continued to seek greater trading routes in the interior after his 1615 journeys to the Hudson Bay, even if he discovered the ruse of a direct route to Cathay, traveling up the Ottawa River to Lake Nipissing and the Georgian Bay in Lake Huron, and crossing Lake Ontario–regions that his 1608 map show as open for settlement, minimizing the local presence of native nomadic tribes.

The alliance that Champlain formed with Montaignais and Etchemin [Algonquin] tribes from provided a turning point in introducing native informants into maps of New France, and indeed in the mapping of New France as a community open to French trade.   When Champlain turned up the St. Lawrence to gain dominance in the pelt trade from the Dutch and English, he depended on Native guides.  He had admired the Iroquois for their navigational skills–he relied on the sailing skills he had learned in France’s coast.  But as he increasingly dedicated himself to inland mapping for possible commerce routes, focussing on the riverine paths that he would open to trading for fur pelts, exploring what would be the St. Lawrence and its tributaries, traveling upriver to found the city of Montreal.  There is some evidence of how Champlain relied increasingly on native interlocutors to determine place-names in his map; his subsequent founding of Ottawa–perhaps as his sites had shifted.

The more expansive and detailed 1618 map of New France, meant to accompany an account in his 1619 Voyages of his travails and unsuccessful battles against native peoples while attempting to discover a Northwest Passage that obsessed him from 1615, and provide a tantalizing teaser of potential routes to continue to explore, as much as it describes a region which he had become such a primary informant.  The map printed in 1619 in Paris staked out an argument for continuing to fund his successive voyages not only of exploration but of potential commerce, leaving open much of the possibility of arriving at a route to the Orient and China across polar ice as a hint of future riches that he wanted to pursue.  Champlain’s 1619 “La Nouvelle France,” engraved in Paris, narrated his own exploration of the region in detail through 1618, now focussing on his travails in the course of exploration; the Voyages describe unsuccessful battles with Native Americans as a tale of frustration and self-sacrifice in enlarging the surface of the map for French readers at a new stage in their mission of settling the New World.

Whereas Champlain had charted French towns on the coasts of his first voyages of 1598 and 1602 with Francophone toponyms as Port Royal in the current Prince Edward Country or Sante-Croix between 1604 and 1605, the maps mirror his decisive move inland and engage native inhabitants and guides in founding cities from Quebec in the voyage of 1608. And in later periods, Champlain engage the Iroquois at Lake Champlain in 1619 to modern Montreal and Ottawa in his later travels with the Huron guides to lake Ontario of 1615, meeting the “Cheveaux-Relevés” (Odawa), whose painted and pierced faces Champlain noted, as he offered their chief a hatchet in exchange for a map drawn on tree-bark with charcoal of the expanse of the region around the Georgian Bay (III: 43-5), in what they took as a symbol of their future alliance, most likely, rather than the securing of a new trade route.

The title and inclusion of a topical notion of cartography Champlain practiced in this ‘chorography’ of New France contrast with the abstract universalist perspective associated with early modern maps.  It is interesting to observe some connections between Champlain’s own ethnographic perspective in the charts drawn when had sailed to the Indies and Santo Domingo, serving commander as a ship of his uncle which was leased for a voyage to the “Indies” in 1599-1600, and whose “Brief discours” provided a model he expanded upon in the far more extensive geographic cartographies he executed of New France for the French King.  While the map of Santo Domingo recalls a book of islands, the mapping of New France suggests less a bound area of trade, so much as a region of continued engagement.

Champlain Santo Domingo

There is another continuity with the maps he drew of the Indies in the late sixteenth century.  Each provided a detailed account of the economic advantages of each site he explored–including the notation of the suitability of copper mines or existence of gold–revealing their deep reliance on a material culture of New World goods, as in this rendering of the Cassava.

Champlain Cassava

Champlain famously even included a rendering of a New World dragon–boasting it was completely harmless despite its appearance, as if to create interest in the beast–indicating what would be a longstanding curiosity in recording foreign fruits or animals in naturalistic detail.   Champlain’s work reflects keen interest both in the marketing of New World goods–copper mines or the availability of gold; beaver pelts; marine seals; horseshoe-crabs–and a sites of raspberries or cod, potential products of economic value, if not curiosities that demonstrated knowledge of the terrain.  In the cartouche in the lower boundary of his 1608 map of New France, appear images of almost botanical naturalism for readers hungry for pictorial detail on natural curiosities and material goods:

Fruits and Veggies from New France

Champlain’s maps of the Bay of Fundy and eastern seaboard, drawn as he searched for sites of potential cities in three years of intense chart-making along the Atlantic coast in Acadia, and sailing from Cape Cod to Maine, and before his later voyages turned from nautical to terrestrial cartography, tracing the inland riverine paths, were long focussed on regions that the French crown determined were of economic interest.   The equation of the ‘voyage’ with ‘the savage’ raises multiple questions, however, as much as reveal his skills of terrestrial hydrography, both about the medium of the map, and the roles maps played between travel literature and a concerted program to promote New World trade for which France was eager.

The Royal Hydrographer engaged an established model for mapping in print by noting the rivers that created an area of future commerce and trading in mapping New France.  In the same year that Bougereau’s Le Theatre francoys (1594) delineated hydrographic routes of travel and the borders of the principal fluvial basins, for readers, demonstrating courses of travel and commerce as sources of the country’s nourishment and “natural ornament” by its detailed hydrography, which had challenged both royal cartographers as Jolivet or the valet de chambre et geographe ordinaire de roi in his surveys of the Bourbonnais, and to encompass the hydrographic network that united regions of trade so important to Henry IV and his ministers, and may have led Louis XIV from 1665 to later fund the construction of a Canal du Midi linking the Atlantic and Mediterranean.  Bougereau’s maps already focussed on the network of commerce that rivers enabled in the realm as they knit together regions whose inhabitants were bitterly divided by confessions:

Bougereau Langue d'Oc

If Oronce Finé, Nicolas and Bougeraux sought to create a united chorographic image of the religiously divided nation, as Peters has argued in Mapping Discord, their precedents of hydrographic mapping certainly created a dynamic charge for crafting a chorography of the  French presence in the New World.  If rivers and fluvial networks were the central focus of the more detailed chorographic images that royal cartographers delineated in France, the river as a source of trade and network of exploration among native nomadic tribes was thematized in Champlain’s maps.  Indeed, the river became the central vehicle of transport and terrestrial portage, as Champlain and a small body of French men adopted the vehicle of the canoe to move from Tadoussec, the major post for previous fur-trading, and Quebec, the city he had founded in the 1608 voyage, moving inland after obtaining the charge to “search for a free passage by which to reach the country called China” that he had gained in 1612.

Champlain was convinced in the form of a Northern Sea, probably based on responses from Native guides to his questions about the river’s paths and its relation to the great salt-water body that they described.  His attempts to seek protection of trade routes led to increased siding with Huron and Algonquin natives against the Iroquois, traveling up the St. Lawrence by boat and abandoning his large ships to move to native-made canoes from 1613, traveling in the Great Lakes and up what is now the Ottawa River, reaching the Georgian Bay using native crafts of canoes to cross the network of rivers and lakes, and by 1615 traveling up the Oneida River.

The notion of such a passage was already retained in Dutch global maps by de Jode, pictured below, but the inland route he hoped to obtain promised a more advantageous and direct route–much as Mercator, relying on Cartier, had drawn the Saguenay and St. Lawrence as extending to a freshwater body–“hic mare est dulcium aquarium, cujus terminum ignorari Canadenses ex relatu Saguenaiensium aiunt“–whose end was unknown to the natives on the Saguenay; Ortelius had showed the great lakes as extending to the Arctic Sea.

As Champlain came to trade with Huron, Algonquin, and Montagnais, he responded to their appeals to fight against the Iriquois in ways that expanded the charge he had gained to broker piece in 1612 Charter to become enmeshed in local conflicts, using gun-fire at the same time as he confronted the warrior skills of provoked Iroquois.  The images that he drafted reveal an even greater level of violence to other images of the New World, dramatically documenting his immersion within local conflicts, as this description of resisting the attacks of Iriquois in 1608 printed in 1613; the image of Champlain holding his firearms against the Iroquois cast natives in a positive as allies, and placed Champlain in a heroic pose in a rare surviving image.

DefeatOfIroquoisByChamplain

The native bows and canoes echoed images of Staden’s encounter in his popular travelogue, yet the far more sophisticated attention to their dress and customs reveal Champlain’s attention to their culture and society to a far greater extent, evident in the attention to the Algonquin in his writings of 1615-17, pictured below Staden’s earlier woodcut images:

violence tupinamba staden

17 bis  Algonquin indians 1615-17 by Champlain

The detailed attention to the particulars of their costume and dress, formal postures, and family structures provided a detailed map of their society as befit allies he cultivated for the French monarchy, and whom he would increasingly depend upon as he continued to seek new routes to expand French settlement inland along the region’s rivers–as well as to seek a pathway to arriving at the Pacific through the frozen waters of the north.  (Levi Strauss must have seen Champlain, indeed, as a sort of model for ethnographic observation, even if he attributed an elder Frenchman’s distaste for the Nambikwara to echoing Champlain’s remove from the customs of “les sauvages.”)

The map Champlain compiled by 1613 mapped his travels adopted the criteria of proof long applied to terrestrial maps , accurate meridians, and the emblems of his craft as cartographer–a surveyor’s compass and scale bar–which overshadowed the rhumb lines of charts, and reflected his new interest in a northern bay.  The northwest passage that became the prime object of his 1615 westward journey in the map he made of his voyages in 1616, which, though not included in his 1619 Voyages, provided a convincing record of an open path to the north or northwest passage for which he had so assiduously searched, seems to have been encouraged by the natives from whom he sought increased assistance, and who provided him with the materials for an expanded trade that funded his successive New World voyages.

Champlain ms map La Nouvelle France 1616, pre Voyages 1619

Champlain maps his Voyages on a true meridian

These maps of the Hudson Bay, region of Ontario, and great rivers across New France stand in contrast to the form of isolari, even as they borrow from them in showing the islands that cluster around the coast of New France.   As he travelled inland on the St. Lawrence to the site of Quebec, the town of Champlain boasted in his journal with the zeal of the European that “all this lovely area was uninhabited,” as its residents had fled before the arrival of the French, and conveniently “abandoned it for fear of Iroquois raiders.”  So it is not, perhaps, surprising, that the savages assumed a primary role in the marketing of this book, as did images of the same native peoples appear banished from the surface of Champlain’s maps of 1602 or 1613:  the maps lacked inhabitants, and provided a sort of advertisement for future sites of trading posts with Francophone Catholic names, in contrast to the 1638 map’s display of Native settlements and “nations” or “petites nations,” and detailed images of the Algonquin and their customs, dress, and families.

champlains map %22Des Sauvages-  ou voyage de Samuel Champlain, de Brouages, faite en la France novelle l'an 1603%22

Golfe de l'homme

So much was probably what viewers had come to expect from a map of the New World–as well as because of the fact that the importance of securing the fur trade from the early 17th century led the French to enter into a longtime war between Native Peoples in the hopes to protect trading routes.  The more expansive and elegant “Carte Geographique de la Nouvelle France par le Sieur de Champlain, . . . Cappitaine Ordinaire Pour le Roy en la Marine” of 1612 would also banish most all of the native inhabitants from the territory it depicted, as if to erase the very wars that he had begun, moving them to the status of curiosities in separate parts of a cartouche.  By that time, a royal charter gave him licence to negotiate alliances in the name of the monarch, and he more openly charted the open lands that his privilege from the King had charged him to explore.  The map commanded assent from readers in new ways that extended Champlain’s own bid for authority of organizing routes of trade in the New World.  After returning to the Bay of Fundy, founding the French city of Port-Royal on the coast of Nova Scotia in 1605, as a new site for the St.-Croix island settlement in 1604, as a seat for the French in the New World.   After three years of intense chart-making along the Atlantic coast in Acadia for seats for colonies from Cape Cod to Maine–he visited Cape Cod twice in reconnaissance voyages to the “beau port” of what is now Gloucester during the summers 1605 and 1606 to search for further sites for possible trade and explored possible areas of settlement in the Bay of Fundy.

Item8

After mapping options and noting their advantages, he turned from charting sites for possible trading posts on the coasts, all of which met with limitations, to mapping courses of trade along riverine paths by which he could gain advantage over Dutch or English traders through the alliances he developed with the region’s inhabitants.  Champlain proceeded up the river after growing disillusioned after having no further suitable sites for colonies on the Atlantic in previous voyages and eager to map out a route for further trade.  His later famous voyage of 1608 led him to sail inland up the St. Lawrence where in June sought to found a French base beyond the treading post of Tadoussac at the Saguenay River’s mouth, and followed Cartier’s route north seeking dominance in the fur trade with his new Montaignais and Etchemin allies, and later with the Huron and Odawa peoples.

As the later itineraries of his over 20 voyages turned from nautical to riverine paths, Champlain seems to have interacted even more with native guides to explore his potential course.  Did this create a lack of trust between him and his interlocutors, as he sought to develop an authoritative record of potential trading routes?  There must have been some ambivalence with which he engaged native peoples as he moved up the St. Lawrence river, entering the territory with a group of men he came to call “sauvages” in his Journals, even as he allied with them.  The term “sauvages” had far less to do with Champlain’s personal perceptions than the currency that the image of the savage had gained in early modern France, and as talismanic of the New World.  Champlain was dependent on native indications and advice as he sailed upstream in Cartier’s footsteps:  his immersion in native culture on the river, rather than on his ocean-bound craft, surely marked a shift in his attitudes perhaps visible in maps he drafted after his manuscripts: by the 1638 map, he not only noted native habitations with interest, but described the precise locations of the “nation of the Algomequins [Algonquins]” or the “nations of Montaignais,” French names for local nomadic tribes; Champlain acknowledged their own possession of territory, reflecting both the durable treaties he had made with them and assigning their fixed sites of habitation in an unprecedented manner by recognizing their spatial location on his 1638 map.

Nouvelle France 1632

Champlain Banishes Iriquois

Pettit nation des Algommeguins

Habitation de sauvages maniganatico

DSCN4260

Mapping the settlement of Canada by the natives they called Montaignais, Etechemins, and Iroquois became central to the project of mapping the rivers and coasts of New France, and particularly as important an artery of trade as the river known as the St. Lawrence, much as it was central to the understanding of the New World in later periods.

Indians in Canada-  Iroquois, Etechemins, Montaignais

Although it is difficult to know what sort of help natives provided in mapping the interior of modern Ontario, it is instructive to examine a later map that an unidentified Chickasaw mapmaker presented to the Governor of Carolina that described the situation of native nations near the banks of the Mississippi River, in this copy of a map “Drawn upon a Deer Skin by an Indian Cacique and Presented to Francis Nicholson Esqr. Governour of Carolina,” covering some 700,000 square miles from Texas to New York around 1723.  The unidentified Chickasaw mapmaker distinguished each native nation that inhabited the region in relation to local rivers–and notes the tribes allied with the French who surrounded the Chickasaw:

Chickasaw map of Indian Nations

Did Champlain encounter similar oral descriptions of different nations, or did he translate these terms into French?  This Chickasaw map of about a century later demarcated the positions of native residences primarily in relation to the river, noting natives allied with the French by a simple “F”:

Nations mapped

The Algonquin relations about the upper St. Lawrence on which Champlain depended were later mapped, but must have included considerable information about neighboring tribes. After Champlain had left his ships and traveled inland, he had deepened his relations with the native guides who took him on the “Iriquois trail” up the river.  He was drawn further inland out of the need to reach further inland trading posts to secure advantages in the fur trade, as much as exploration; but perhaps his attitudes shifted as he traveled beyond the trading post of Tadoussec in his 1608 voyage from France, and adopted native place-names, perhaps reflecting some dependence on local guides.  In fact, he seems to have come to adopt Native names for the first time in his cartographical career, arriving at a narrowing of the river [“Kebec” = “where the river narrows”] where he chose to found a city of trade whose cliffs could be adequately defended, and choosing it to translate into French.

He described the site of the future city as abandoned, perhaps by natives who fled the Iroquois:  in fact, the place was deserted after Small Pox devastations.  Quebec was the third city he founded in the New World:  “I could not find any more suitable or better situated than the point of Quebec [at July 3 1608], so called by the natives, which was covered with nut-trees.” 

Item8a

The arrival of the French paradoxically had earlier both cleared the map of the Native inhabitants he had come to call “Sauvages,” much as he had renamed the cities in New France with Christian place-names in his very first chart-like maps:

Baie_des_Chaleurs_1612

As Champlain grew enmeshed with the rivalries of native informants who defined the project of mapping and the larger still project, never completed, of actualizing deep belief in the ability to reach Pacific Ocean and an imagined route to Cathay–and the maps seem to reveal this search for a North-West passage–probably on the basis of what informants told him about a river that opened to an ocean, either the Mississippi or Hudson, or perhaps a sort of white lie.

Champlain's coastal map

Champlain was  similar intermediary, converting local knowledge of riverine paths and lakes to his own land-charts, and trying to exploit local knowledge to discover a North-West passage that had eluded the English or Dutch, but which Iroquois or Huron led him to believe:  this was in a sense the real war that he had engaged in, struggling for more exact knowledge of the land.

DefeatOfIroquoisByChamplainSavages and Champlain

The famous woodcut images by which he narrated his own involvement in what was the beginning of the Iroquois War in 1608–the first sustained military engagement with native inhabitants in which France remained so long involved.  The images reveal the extent to which, as a royal hydrographer, Champlain knew well natives’ experience in canoes as tools of river-navigation–the careful detail was no doubt in part a reference to his own mapping skills, presumably to recall his dependence on native guides, moving between the native world and providing new information for future trade routes to the naval officials at the French court who might encourage future voyages.

There must have been a degree of ambivalence in the elevation of the “savage” or “sauvage” for Champlain.  Historians have suggested that he used the term to refer to his guides and the natives who accompanied him on the “Iroquois trail,” as they ate raw meat, and as he introduced his young  twelve year old French bride to the men with whom he did regular business.  His riverine navigations were the basis of the travels that occasioned the narrative, of contact with fur traders and exploration of what would be the Great Lakes, on which he was assisted by numerous guides, but whose inhabitation of local areas he had earlier regularly omitted.   Natives sketched the routes of rivers and travel in the sand and on birch bark: Champlain learned the lay-out of local hydrography from them, and probably not only achieved his migration up the St. Lawrence but gained increased convictions of a route to Cathay that lured him up the river further, as informants described the sort of river that opened to the Ocean that he must have sought to question them in order to find.  When he followed the river past modern Ottawa in canoes, by portages between rivers and lakes, traveling past Allumettes Island to Lake Nipissing, Lake Ontario and Lake Huron after 1615, in search of the great salt-water sea Hudson Bay, he appears to incorporated sketches from local mapmakers in his maps, as the somewhat odd rectangular islands from his 1632 “Carte de la Nouvelle France, augmenteé . . . par le Sr. de Champlain, captaine de le Roy [Map of New France, expanded since the previous one, by Sieur de Champlain, Captain for the King]”–a map which, despite its greater accuracy, depended on native sketches for lands west of Montreal, or to the north in the Hudson Bay.

Nouvelle France 1632 WISC

Is there a chance that Native Peoples convinced him of the path for a what became later known as the “North-West Passage,” eager to appease him in his search to discover a path that would bring further economic wealth to France as an empire?

The New France that he surveyed on these travels was striking not only for its extension to the interior, but filled a similar taste for depicting the inhabitants at first-hand that he had removed from the land itself that he surveyed.  The map seems also hopeful of a Western opening to water, and suggests a rich alluvial plain in the Americas.  The image of an unending plain of voyage continued until the early eighteenth century, when cartographers noted that “The country is laid out in such a way that by means of the St. Lawrence one can travel everywhere inland, thanks to the lake which leads to its source in the West and the rivers that flow into it along its shores, opening the way to the North and the South,” Jean Talon wrote in 1670 to the French monarch, echoing the North-West passage Champlain sought to indicate in leaving open the “Mer du Nort Glacialle” to which boats cold easily arrive.

Mer du Nort Glacialle in Nouvelle France

Champlain’s maps of both 1612, 1618 and 1635 suggest a combine the rhumb lines of nautical cartography and surveyor’s tools, and present geographic maps as of considerably increased precision, the final of which portrayed New France “on the true Meridian” that combined the accuracy of topical mapping of New France’s topography while describing the advantages of nautical access that New France offered, in ways that continue to echo the cartographical imaginary of an isolario or book of islands, to which he almost rendered the Great Lakes as an extension.

Champlain_Carte_1612

Champlain maps his Voyages on a true meridian

A sign of his whole-heartedly identification of himself with the construction of his 1632 map may lie in the common interpretation of the centrally-located image of the sun’s face as a concealed portrait Champlain, a center from which rays spread across the map’s surface as if to illuminate the complex coastline and the detailed network of rivers and lakes in its interior.

Champlain in sun 1632c

The image of New France that was transmitted in the work of Nicolas Sanson from Champlain’s work effectively erased any analogous ethnographic components, although Sanson retained the toponomy of native towns in New France that still often survives.

Sanson Canada

Yet Champlain’s terrestrial mapping of the region’s future settlement is his legend.  The surveying instrument or mariner’s astrolabe of French manufacture found near the Ottawa River in Muskrat Lake, and dating from the early seventeenth century that is enshrined at the Museum of Civilization under glass as a treasure, believed to have been used by Champlain to perform sightings for his survey of the region–and a talisman of his ability to transform multiple sightings to a surface of uniform continuity–is preserved in Ottawa’s Museum of Civilization under glass as a material relic of mapping of New France; although its provenance is impossible to substantiate, its seventeenth-century instrument of surveying is presented as the medium of Champlain’s is relation to the project of mapping New France.

Champlains's Own Astrolabe-Museum of Civ, Ottawa

No image of Samuel de Champlain exists, but the image of the explorer popularized in prints as the below, that imagine native witnesses to his expertise as in awe of the terrestrial surveying he performed to chart his entry, as if to erase his own role in helping Champlain map the region.  His awe is perhaps a reflection of Champlain’s ability to expand his nautical chart by meridians–and to assemble his inland map without clear base-lines.

Champlain-Jefferys-LAC

The engraving of course erased or whitewashed dependence on Native informants and their knowledge of the river.  By evoking unknowing amazement at Champlain’s instrument, the notion is to mythologize his acquisition of the country through a map–a classic if all too familiar 19th-century narrative of modern competence and expertise.

The narrative was launched in part by his inscription of the lake bearing his name in the map.

Lake Champlain:Trois Rivieres (a bit blurred)

If there are traces that Champlain left of his encounters all over the surface of the map of 1612, traces of the encounter are prominently celebrated in Burlington, Vermont, site of Lake Champlain and Champlain College, where recent interest on the relation of the namesake of the Lake–and celebration of his relatively enlightened contact with native peoples–are commemorated in multiple banners (and maps) that decorate the local airport.

Banner Champlain

As befits the proposal of expanded commercial traffic in the territory of New France, in his map of the region Champlain embedded multiple sightings native animals traded there on its surface–otters and beavers, whose pelts were particularly valued, and whales or native fruits–encouraging readers to peer into the content of the map’s surface they scanned for further natural curiosities.

But unlike the fairly fantastic sea-creatures depicted with abundance in sea charts, the marine seals, beavers, otters, horseshoe-crabs and other local curiosities in his 1632 map transform what was known as a “frozen wilderness” of little interest to the French court into a surface of abundance and copious meaning, and land of commercial plenty.

beavers in New France

Champlain Beaver?

Seal otter champlain

horse-shoe crab

beavers in New France

But it was the inhabitants of the land that Champlain knew–his informants–that were in part his cartographic assistants as well, and are depicted in greatest detail, but wearing costumes to separate and distinguish them from the French readers of Champlain’s maps, but offered an object of wonder at which to gaze at the inhabitation of New France that the map revealed: but from objects of wonder who participated in the crafting of the map, however, the native inhabitant were effect transformed to subjects of conversion.

Figures des montaignais

In preparing this post, I was inspired by an exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Civilization/Musée des civilizations in Ottawa CA, Moving with the River.  Any and all errors in my discussion of Champlain’s maps are of course my own; the maps of Champlain’s travels depicted in this post appear on the Museum’s website.  I’ve also adopted passages of the recent editions of Des Sauvages in Samuel de Champlain before 1604, ed. Conrad E. Heidenreich and K. Janet Ritch (2010).

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Filed under Canada, Native Peoples, Nautical Charts, nautical maps, New World