4.2: Native American Lands

What did Native American lands look like in the early 1800s?

Step 1: Go to the assignment, Native American Lands, and explore the map.

In 1819, Native American lands were two-thirds of the area of the United States today.

Step 2: Click the Content button. Use the measure tool to measure the area of the vast contiguous tribal lands.

  • Approximately how many square miles were measured?
  • Did the area get bigger or smaller by 1850?

Why were settlers moving west?

Step 3: Click Basemap, and then choose Terrain with Labels.

Step 4: Turn on the Overland Historic Trails layer.

In 1843, John Louis O’Sullivan wrote, “Other nations have tried to check… the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.” America, as a young nation, was moving westward.

  • Why were settlers moving west?

What happens when different cultures collide?

In the 1990s, Mary Brave Bird wrote of Native American lands, “The land is sacred. These words are at the core of our being. The land is our mother, the rivers our blood. Take our land away, and we die. That is, the Indian in us dies.”

Step 5: Turn on the Battle Sites layer. Click each battle site, and briefly look at the causes of each battle.

  • How close were the battle sites to the Overland Historic Trails?
  • Considering the Bird of O’Sullivan quotes, why did these clashes and battles occur?

How much Native American land was there in 2015?

Step 6: Read the Table Statistics box below:

  • Calculate the percent decrease of Native American land from 1819 to 2015.
    • Use the Statistics function in the table for the Native American Reservations 2015 layer.
    • Select the Square Miles field. Note, the sum of the square miles field.
    • Divide the sum of 2015 by the area measured at the beginning of the assignment, and multiple by 100.

How would you characterize America’s pursuit of Manifest Destiny?

Step 7: Turn off all of the layers.

Step 8: Turn on all of the Native American Tribal Homelands and reservation layers (six layers). The layered effect of the data should allow a clear pattern of reduction in lands.

  • Native American lands in 1819 comprised 66 percent of the total square miles of the modern contiguous United States (roughly 3 million square miles). What percent of the total square miles of the 2015 Native American reservations (103,407 square miles) is in the contiguous United States today?
  • What was the “cost” of America’s pursuit of Manifest Destiny?


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World Regional Geography Lab Manual by R. Adam Dastrup, MA, GISP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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