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This is a series of maps charting the shrinkage of Native American lands over time, from 1784 to the present day.  Made because I was having trouble visualizing the sheer scale of the land loss, and reading numbers like “blah blah million acres” wasn’t really doing it for me.  The gif is based on a collection of maps by Sam B. Hilliard of Louisiana State University.  You can see the original map here.

For those who do prefer dealing in numbers, here are some:

By 1881, Indian landholdings in the United States had plummeted to 156 million acres. By 1934, only about 50 million acres remained (an area the size of Idaho and Washington) as a result of the General Allotment Act* of 1887. During World War II, the government took 500,000 more acres for military use. Over one hundred tribes, bands, and Rancherias relinquished their lands under various acts of Congress during the termination era of the 1950s.

By 1955, the indigenous land base had shrunk to just 2.3 percent of its original size.

In the Courts of the Conqueror by Walter Echo-Hawk

* The General Allotment Act is also known as the Dawes Act.

It’s an excellent visualization. But the first map shows no pre-European indigenous presence on the East coast, which is wrong.

The Six Nations of the Haudenosenee — Seneca, Onondaga, Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Tuscarora — lived mostly in what is now known as upstate New York.

The Wappinger Confederacy — Siwanoy, Lenape, Hackensack, Metoac — lived in what’s now called the Hudson Valley, New Jersey, Connecticut, down to Manhattan island (which was famously “bought” from the Lenape).

The Wabanaki Confederacy — Abenaki, Penobscot, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Mikmaq — lived in what is now Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts (shout out to Donna, wherever she may be!).

I’m not as familiar with indigenous peoples further south, but I can’t imagine it’s all that different: coastal regions offer abundant food sources and breathtaking natural beauty, so people tend to like living there.

I don’t know the reason for this oversight, but there it is. Basically, the map should start out entirely green.


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