North American buckskin map
From North America, AD 1774-5
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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.