Rumsey Map Center: Cherokee History

Mapping practices have traditionally erased or ignored the Cherokee people, their language, and their conceptions of land and place.

This exhibition, which will open at Stanford University and then at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC (next to the lands of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) examines how maps can nevertheless be read within an indigenous framework to trace Cherokee placemaking, unearthing the ways the tribe has created, maintained, and reclaimed Cherokee spaces and landscapes throughout time. While most histories of the Cherokee focus on the Trail of Tears, this exhibition presents a larger view, beginning with the pre-colonial landscape, through the aftermath of the removal crisis of the 1830s, to today. To present the information in a way that both honors and centers the Cherokee worldview, and to highlight the way language, place names, and maps were and continue to be used as tools of power, the exhibition is presented in the Cherokee language with a full English translation. As one of only a handful of exhibitions presented in the Cherokee language, the project expands language revitalization efforts into new realms, creating content with which to engage Cherokee speakers and language learners, while simultaneously bringing in new audiences.