We're all used to seeing these old drawings with their rough geographical accuracy and sparsely filled-in areas as more and more of the "undiscovered" regions of the world came to be known.
Seeing for the First Time
Of course, we all know that each of these undiscovered regions were already populated at the time the Europeans first began to explore them, but for most of us that is where our knowledge of these areas ends; with the simple understanding that - yes - someone had already been there.
So it was an amazing experience for me the other day to see - for the first time in my life - a detailed map of exactly who was in the New World of the western hemisphere - and exactly where they were, long before the first European foot stepped onto these shores.
And not only do these maps show who and where these peoples were - but equally important, what their real names were. Not the names imposed on them by the butchered pronunciation and derisive attitude of the "discoverers" - but the names they actually called themselves. Their true identities.
Are We There Yet?
After my first ten minutes of perusing these maps for the very first time, I nearly had tears of joy in my eyes from the feeling of spiritual liberation they gave me. I felt as though a giant tarp concealing a deep and beautiful truth had finally been removed from a scene of indescribable beauty and richness.
In fact, that is essentially what these maps signify; the first - as far as I'm aware - look any of us have ever had at a true and accurate map depicting what, and who had been in this land - before it was overrun, and changed forever.
And as I sat there, somewhat stunned that I was only now seeing this magnificence for the first time - I had to ask myself, is what replaced this richness better? Most modern people tend to look at things like this and then casually dismiss what was lost as the price of progress. But is that true?
Is what replaced that world, and others like it, progress? Progress is defined as the forward movement toward a destination. Is that what we have seen since Europeans changed this land, and erased these cultures forever? And if so - what exactly is this destination?
The question itself reveals the prejudice of perspective that came with the European conquest. Is more - better? Is the culture of money, and technology aimed at acquiring more money, really progress?
Maybe. But as I stared at these maps, looked at the names revealed, and imagined the richness of the lives they lived, I was left with one haunting question. Progress for who?
You can find his Maps of Tribal Nations here.