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From Midnight to Guntown
Desert Lawmen
The Practical Utopians
Desert Duty
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Charles E. Hires and the Drink That Wowed a Nation
Survival Pending Revolution
Democracy, Culture and the Voice of Poetry
Savage Frontier, 1835-1837
Ruby & Spear

How the West Was DrawnHow the West Was Drawn

Mapping, Indians, and the Construction of the Trans-Mississippi West

David Bernstein

Narrated by Alan Murray

Available from Audible

Book published by University of Nebraska Press

How the West Was Drawn explores the geographic and historical experiences of the Pawnees, the Iowas, and the Lakotas during the European and American contest for imperial control of the Great Plains during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. David Bernstein argues that the American West was a collaborative construction between Native peoples and Euro-American empires that developed cartographic processes and culturally specific maps, which in turn reflected encounter and conflict between settler states and indigenous peoples.

Bernstein explores the cartographic creation of the Trans-Mississippi West through an interdisciplinary methodology in geography and history. He shows how the Pawnees and the Iowas—wedged between powerful Osages, Sioux, the horse- and captive-rich Comanche Empire, French fur traders, Spanish merchants, and American Indian agents and explorers—devised strategies of survivance and diplomacy to retain autonomy during this era. The Pawnees and the Iowas developed a strategy of cartographic resistance to predations by both Euro-American imperial powers and strong indigenous empires, navigating the volatile and rapidly changing world of the Great Plains by brokering their spatial and territorial knowledge either to stronger indigenous nations or to much weaker and conquerable American and European powers.

How the West Was Drawn is a revisionist and interdisciplinary understanding of the global imperial contest for North America’s Great Plains that illuminates in fine detail the strategies of survival of the Pawnees, the Iowas, and the Lakotas amid accommodation to predatory Euro-American and Native empires.


“The book's well-sourced revisionist examination of history through the eyes of both Euro- and Native Americans, and the influence of indigenous knowledge on cartography, is compelling, and thus it is a worthy addition to any historical examination of the Trans-Mississippi West.”

—Brian Croft, Nebraska History

“By examining the motives and process of mapmaking, Bernstein restores historical agency to the Pawnee and other tribes.”

—R. Dorman, Choice

“Throughout the volume, Bernstein not only makes a convincing argument, but he also corrects some of the problematic ideas scholars have advanced or embraced over the years. This is a well-researched book. The author draws from manuscript sources at the Kansas Historical Society, the Missouri History Museum, the National Archives, and the Newberry Library, among other repositories, not to mention newspapers, government documents, Native American records, and other published primary sources.... In addition, it would be a mistake not to mention and commend the book’s excellent selection of 46 map images.... Bernstein does an excellent job integrating these maps into his analysis and the University of Nebraska Press should be commended for their investment in this incredible level of illustration. This is a book that will work well in graduate seminars on Native American history, the history of the antebellum U.S., the history of cartography, and colonialism. Anyone interested in space and place in the North America would do well to read this book.”

—Evan Rothera, Reviews in History

“Bernstein not only engages the historiography of Native America and cartography, but also joins a growing corpus that reassesses U.S. expansion from the point of view of those on the ground who would subvert and offer contingencies to the path of empire. Bernstein draws these insights from a well executed study centered around the Pawnees of the early nineteenth century who occupied the region that would become the states of Kansas and Nebraska.”

—Jimmy L. Bryan Jr., Western Historical Quarterly



Section 1: Living in Indian Country
1. Construction Indian Country
2. Sharitarish and the Possibility of Treaties
3 Non-Participatory Mapping

Section 2: The Rise and Fall of “Indian Country”
4. The Cultural Construction of “Indian Country”
5. Science and the Destruction of “Indian Country”

Section 3: Reclaiming Indian Country
6. The Metaphysics of Indian Naming


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University Press Audiobooks