Cartographic collaborations in the new world
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A hand-coloured illustration, ‘Chart Drawn by the Natives’, in a rare book—Sir John Ross’s Narrative … in Search of a North-West Passage (1835)—depicts two Inuit men in fur parkas, sketching a map and describing arctic seaways to three formally dressed European members of the Ross Polar Expedition of 1825–1833. Although this illustration is not included in John Rennie Short’s Cartographic Encounters: Indigenous Peoples and the Exporation of the New World, the image offers a striking example of the unique collaborations that Short describes between Natives and newcomers. These interactions, some forced others voluntary—all mostly forgotten today—were crucial to the Euro-American exploration, mapping, and colonisation of the New World.
Short’s book drives home fundamental facts, overlooked by historians of the European Contact period. Long before the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, Germans, Russians, and English arrived in North America, the indigenous inhabitants had already...