Posted by on March 21, 2018

Project

The final digital humanities project that I plan to produce for HST 812 will actually act as a pilot project for something that I hope to earn a Cultural Heritage Informatics Graduate Fellowship to develop further in the near future. As I have discussed in multiple blog posts throughout the semester, my objective is to design an interactive web map that will dynamically illustrate Native American movement across the Great Lakes region as the United States government seized more and more land through treaties over the course of the nineteenth century. To accomplish this task, I first compiled a corpus of 25 treaties signed between 1795 and 1855. I selected the treaties for my corpus based on their prominence in secondary sources beginning with the Treaty of Greenville – the first major treaty with Native Americans after the American Revolution – and ending with a trio of treaties with both Odawa and Ojibwe bands in what is now Michigan [1]. Considering the limited amount of time left in this course, it would be infeasible to incorporate every single aboriginal group who participated in my selected treaties’ negotiations and signings into a single map. Therefore, I plan to plot out the more manageable mobile histories of five bands, laying the groundwork for an even more advanced future project.

Based on a close reading of the 25 treaties that I have linked above, it appears that the Sault Ste. Marie band of Ojibwe Indians had representation present at one of the highest numbers of negations in 1820, 1825, 1826, 1836, 1854, and 1855. Similarly, the Fond du Lac and La Pointe bands diplomatically challenged the United States in 1825, 1826, and 1854. Although I certainly plan to analyze some bands who lived below what is now Michigan’s upper peninsula, the three aforementioned examples are important because they help highlight the number of moving parts that my web map will contain. In addition to pinpointing static treaty sites and aboriginal villages (with locations that can easily be gleaned from secondary sources like the Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History), the map will feature various shaded layers representing distinct bands that will move simultaneously. Nevertheless, this does not necessarily mean that major zones with Indigenous inhabitants will radically alter, leading into the project’s…

Significance

In her monograph Indian Women and French Men, historian Susan Sleeper-Smith argues that “Indians have existed as viable, distinct people from the earliest times to the present and…while encounter changed indigenous communities, it also encouraged the evolution of strategic behaviors that ensured cultural continuity” [2]. Historian Michael A. McDonnell concurs with this assertion, but adds that agreeing to treaty negotiations could actually be interpreted as one of these strategic behaviors [3]. Undeniably, many Americans did not respect or comply with treaties that the United States government reached with the Anishinaabeg of the Great Lakes region or other aboriginal groups, but for some bands treaties offered a powerful opportunity to resist violent removal. Visualizing treaty data offers one compelling avenue to demonstrate this.

Furthermore, this project is significant to the field of Native American history because it utilizes a methodology based on units of analysis much more intimate than tribal affiliations. McDonnell, again, argues that for the eighteenth and nineteenth-century Anishinaabeg, kinship connections provided more enduring bonds of solidarity than broader terms like Odawa or Ojibwe [4]. Waubogee, a figure who appears frequently throughout my data set under several different names, demonstrates this [5]. Although most accounts consider him a member of the Sault Ste. Marie band, in 1826 he appeared in Fond du Lac with a different band signing a treaty promising a cash payment to his granddaughter [6]. Small details like this are why I would like to eventually take my level of analysis one step further, examining Anishinaabe clans instead of bands. This could be possible through an application of historian Heidi Bohaker’s approach to investigating pictographs on treaties like the ones featured in her article “Reading Anishinaabe Identities” below. Since such pictographs are inaccessible to me at present, though, it is perhaps best to proceed to…

Technologies

I have decided on the technologies that I will deploy for my final digital humanities project after consulting with Ethan Watrall. He recommends first constructing a website from the ground up using Bootstrap. Not only will this act as the hub for my web map, but it will also provide me with some space for an interpretive essay once my map is complete as well as a bibliography or section for recommended readings. When I have my website fully formed, Leaflet will provide me with the tools necessary to build my map, including a time slider accessible through GitHub that will help my map more effectively convey change over time. While these methods will undoubtedly be more complicated than simpler software as a service, I suspect that they will also be more sustainable, and continue to be accessible to me when I revisit this work.

Notes

[1] Helen Hornbeck Tanner, Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987), 69.

[2] Susan Sleeper-Smith, Indian Women and French Men: Rethinking Cultural Encounter in the Western Great Lakes (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001), 2.

[3] Michael A. McDonnell, Masters of Empire: Great Lakes Indians and the Making of America (New York: Hill and Wang, 2015), 326-27.

[4] Ibid., 9-10.

[5] Phil Bellfy, “Cross-Border Treaty-Signers: The Anishnaabeg of the Lake Huron Borderlands,” in Lines Drawn upon the Water: First Nations and the Great Lakes Borders and Borderlands, ed. Karl S. Hele (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2008), 33-34.

[6] Cary Miller, Ogimaag: Anishinaabeg Leadership, 1760-1845 (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2010), 77; “Treaty with the Chippewa, 1826,” in Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, 2, ed. Charles J. Kappler (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. 1904), 271-72.

Bibliography (Also Available on Zotero)

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