North American buckskin map

From North America, AD 1774-5

This map shows a vast drainage basin at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

It may have been used in negotiations involving the cession of land by the Wea and Piankashaw (subgroups of the Miami) to the Illinois and Wabash Land Companies. It was brought to Stonyhurst College by Bryan Mullanphy in 1825.

Natives played an essential role in the exploration and mapping of North America. Indians acted as guides, and naturally would also have provided maps. These now act as important records of Native cognition and spatial awareness. Many of these maps were ephemeral. During the California Gold Rush of 1848-50, miners were amazed and delighted to be shown maps outlined in sand, with the mountains heaped up. The Hudson's Bay Company, active between Alaska and Oregon, to Labrador, has records of 800 manuscript charts and maps made between 1670 and 1870. Many of these were created using Native information.

In the Arctic, Inuit acted as pilots, interpreters and cartographers (map-makers); some, such as John Sacheuse or Hans Zakaeus, came from Greenland, and used their linguistic skills far to the west in what is now Canada. In East Greenland maps, showing shore outlines, were carved in wood. Birchbark was also used as a medium.


North American buckskin map

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Object details

Height: 125 cm
Width: 100 cm


AOA 2003.Am.19,3

Room 26: North America


    See this object in our Collection database online

    Further reading

    J.C.H. King, First Peoples, Fist Contacts: Native Peoples of North America (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

    C. Gilman, ‘Mystery of the Indian map: Decoding a Distant Time and Culture’, Gateway, 28 (2008), 9–21

    G. Ironstrack, From the Ashes: One Story of the Village of Pinkwi Mihtohseeniaki (Miami, 2006)

    G.M. Lewis, ‘An Early Map on Skin of the Area Later to Become Indiana and Illinois’, British Library Journal, 22 (1996),  66–87

    S. Raffert, The Miami Indians of Indiana: a Persistent People 1654-1994 (Indiana, 1996)

    D.K. Richter, Facing East from Indian Country: a Native History of Early America (Harvard, 2001)

    M. Warhus, Another America: Native American Maps and the History of Our Land (New York, 1997)

    R. White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires and Republics in the Great Lakes region, 1650–1815 (Cambridge, 1991)