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Gallery Exhibit, Catalog No. 59

This is the 5th of five Gallery Exhibits on color and/or modern reproductions of the “Velasco Map” of 1610/11. Links to related exhibits are located at the bottom of this page.
Color and/or modern reproductions of
the “Velasco Map” — V

Mark Warhus, 1997

“Detail from the ‘Velasco’ map of 1611.” Courtesy of the Archivo General de Simancas, Valladolid, Spain.
Reproduced as Fig. 51 (p. 140) in Another America: Native American Maps and the History of Our Land, by Mark Warhus.

View an enlarged 1330 x 1036 pixel JPG image (212KB)

WARHUS’ PRIMARY INTEREST in the Velasco Map of 1610/11 is its legend

All the blue is dune by the relations of the Indians.

as this makes the Velasco Map “the oldest recorded map to acknowledge its Native American contribution.” As glossed by Warhus:

Often called the “Velasco” map because it was sent to Spain by Don Alonso de Velasco, the Spanish Ambassador to London, this is a Spanish copy of an English map. The entire map shows the coast of North America from Newfoundland to Cape Fear and a generalized interior indicating the limited extent of European knowledge. This detail shows that the mapmaker relied upon Indian information for some of the area shown. “All the blue is done by the relations of the Indians,” has been written in the northeast. It is the oldest recorded map to acknowledge its Native American contribution. Within the land now claimed by Europeans, the areas depicted on the basis of native information include lakes Champlain and George, the upper St. Lawrence, the Susquehanna River, Lake Ontario, and unknown features to the west.

(Warhus 140)

Warhus includes the above detail from the Velasco Map in his chapter 4, “The Remapping of America.” Here he emphasizes that while such maps may “carry the traces of the Native American traditions that originally shaped the land,” they are also emblematic of a significant process of transformation.

     “The Remapping of America” describes both the cartographic and the physical transformation of North America, from a continent that was conceived, experienced, and “mapped” within the traditions and cultures of Native Americans, to a continent owned, occupied, and pictured as part of western culture. Throughout this process western persons relied upon the geographic information they received from Native Americans. This information was often appropriated and then translated onto western maps where it was used to fill in the details of a land now claimed in the name of western empires and nation states. The maps presented here focus on the Native American experience of these events.
     In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries explorers and colonists took over the coasts and limited sections of the interior, displacing native populations with often devastating consequences. But it was not until the late eighteenth century that the wholesale transformation of the continent’s interior began in earnest. Following the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, Great Britain and the United States were the major western presence on the continent. These two societies brought with them a world view that differed markedly from that of the Native Americans. Exclusive ownership, control, and exploitation of the land and its resources were central to the western world view. Native American societies also sought to exploit nature’s abundance, but their technologies and economies evolved views of the land in which balance and non-exclusive use were central. The differences in these two perspectives on the land are reflected in the maps these two traditions produced. Western maps describe land as an object; their mapping systems use conventions like scale and the coordinate system to “accurately” picture the land and establish the boundaries of ownership that define it. Native American oral maps are fluid pictures of a dynamic landscape, a geography in which experience shapes the past and present of the land. By the end of the nineteenth century this indigenous conception of the landscape, along with many of the indigenous people who inhabited it, was replaced by the western view of nature as conquered, controlled, and exploited for the progress of civilization.
     Ironically, the record of exploration contains numerous references to Native American participation in this process. From the Caribbean Natives who showed Columbus where he could find the gold he was seeking, to the Indian informants who supplied Lewis and Clark with maps that helped to open up the Louisiana Territory, western society has relied upon Native Americans to help fill in the details of its maps. While a few western maps recognize the Native American contribution, most simply used the information to fill in the picture of lands they claimed in the name of western kings, gods, and countries. Below the surface of these noble statements, there is a record of less glorious undertakings. The transformation of North America required that American Indians’ land had to be appropriated, wars of extermination had to be waged, and entire populations had to be forcibly relocated. Far from simply adding westernized names to a paper landscape and tracing the course of exploration and development, the remapping of North America involved a path of conquest and repression.
     The maps that accompanied these processes were made to show first a European and then an American audience the extent and character of the newly claimed landscape. They transformed the territory, giving it familiar names, noting the locations of important resources, and drawing in the boundaries and communications routes that reflected western inhabitation. For years these early maps have provided scholars and pedants with fodder for reconstructing the minutia of European exploration. But they are also a glimpse of the Native American geography. They offer insights into the territories occupied by American Indian groups, and a hint of the knowledge carried in their oral traditions.

(Warhus, Another America 138–9)

As has been pointed out by David Allen of the MapHist list,

The use of colors to indicate information from Indian sources appears to be unique to the Velasco map.

(25 April 2005 post to MapHist list)

But a conceptual analogue is to be found in Captain John Smith’s map of 1612, which

uses a line of Maltese crosses to indicate the boundary between lands he surveyed, and lands described on the basis of information provided by the Indians. The use of a line of crosses in a black and white map seems to me to be conceptually analogous to the use of blue lines on a colored map. The areas around Chesapeake shown as based on information from the Indians on the Smith map agree closely with the blue color in that area on the Velasco map.

(David Allen, 27 April 2005 post to MapHist list)

Mark Warhus makes much the same point in his chapter 4, describing how

On the map, Smith noted the extent of his explorations with a series of small Maltese crosses. The key in the upper right explains the “Significance of these marks, To the crosses has been discovered what beyond is by relation.” And in his Description of Virginia, the book in which this map was printed, Smith explains “that as far as you see the little Crosses on rivers, mountains, or other places, has been discovered; the rest was had by information of the Savages, and set downe according to their instructions.” Nearly half of the map lies outside the area delineated by the crosses and includes the course of rivers, the location of Indian settlements, and the territories of other tribes as communicated by American Indians. Even the area supposedly mapped by Smith is still largely a Native American landscape with the names and settlements of Virginian Algonquian Indians spread out along the rivers.

(Warhus 144)

Smith’s published map of 1612 and 1624, which so clearly delineates “the limited extent of the area actually seen by the explorer” (Warhus 146), probably relied on the Velasco Map of 1610/11 for more than just its novel visual coding of the topographical “relations” of Native American sources. Alexander Brown has argued for even closer ties:

It seems to me certain that this map [Smith’s Map of Virginia] was engraved from a copy of the Virginia part of CLVIII [the Velasco Map of 1610/11]. Correct maps must be alike; but when one inaccurate map follows so closely another, as in this case, it furnishes quite conclusive proof that the latter was copied from the former.... [Furthermore,] I have found no real evidence that Smith could draw a map....

(Brown, The Genesis of the United States ii:596)

Warhus describes Smith’s map — and the earlier Velasco Map — as

a picture of the meeting of two worlds that was taking place in the tidewater region of Virginia. It projects British colonial ambitions through Anglicized names such as “Cape Charles,” “Cape Henry,” and the newly founded settlement of “Jamestowne” placed upon the map. It is also a reflection of the American Indian geography that defined this region.... Smith’s map includes the names and locations of nearly two hundred Indian settlements in a region where the only viable British presence was the struggling settlement of Jamestown.

(Warhus 142–3)

But this visual presentation of cross-cultural cartography in both the Velasco Map of 1610/11 and Smith’s map of 1612/24 was never a simple communication of geographical intelligence. The known landscape “of the Indians” was often at odds with the American landscape of European imagining:

The area depicted on Smith’s map, printed with “west” at the top, includes Chesapeake Bay and the eastern part of what is now Virginia, plus parts of Maryland, Delaware, and the Delmarva Peninsula that separates the Chesapeake Bay from the Atlantic. The rivers shown entering the bay include the Powhatan (now James), the Pamaunk (now York), the Rappahannock and the Patawomeck (Potomac). Smith had explored parts of this territory in 1607 and 1608, going up the various rivers and gathering information from the Algonquian- and Iroquoian-speaking Indians who inhabited this region. Smith’s map reflects the European belief that North America was simply an isthmus separating the Atlantic from the western sea and the Orient. The Charter for Virginia granted the colony the right to expand “from sea to sea,” and one of Smith’s goals was to follow the rivers to the other side of America. One of the pieces of information he obtained from Indian informants was that a four or five days’ journey would lead to “a great turning of salt water,” and the body of water pictured in the upper right (northwest) of the map has been alternatively interpreted as a representation of the Pacific Ocean, or — more likely — Lake Erie. Powhatan himself is said to have tried to correct Smith by drawing a map on the ground showing that no “western ocean” lay within his domain regardless of how much the Englishman may have wished it.

(Warhus 143–4)

Still, the plural perspective of the Velasco Map, and its repackaging by Smith, are noteworthy.

For the most part, the Native American presence and traditions would be increasingly ignored and marginalized by subsequent European cartographers. (Warhus 142)

» next (Color and/or modern reproductions — I)
» Color and/or modern reproductions I   (in Isaac Stokes, 1916)
» Color and/or modern reproductions II   (in Fite & Freeman, 1926)
» Color and/or modern reproductions III   (in Cumming, Skelton & Quinn, 1971)
» Color and/or modern reproductions IV   (in Paul Cohen, 1997)
Related Links

• a GALLERY exhibit on the 1610/11 map of North America, aka the “Velasco Map,” and its first printing by Alexander Brown in 1890 (reproduced as item CLVIII in Brown)

• a GALLERY exhibit on the 1608 “Chart of Virginia” which illustrated Captain John Smith’s A True Relation (reproduced as item LVII in Brown)

• a GALLERY exhibit on Captain John Smith’s “A Map of Virginia,” pub. in 1612 and 1624 (reproduced as item CCXLII in Brown); Smith’s ms. chart “A description of the land of Virginia,” sent to Francis Bacon in 1618 (reproduced as item CCXLIII in Brown); and Smith’s map of “Ould Virginia,” pub. in 1624

• a GALLERY exhibit on Powhatan’s mantle, a large deerskin cloak decorated with a symbolic map of the Powhatan chiefdom ca. 1608



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