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Clark the Colonizer

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Personally, I always thought William Clark was a horrible colonizer but I guess it’s good to have more evidence of the point:

A long-missing map, hand-drawn by William Clark of the 1803-1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition, has been rediscovered, apparently misfiled in historical archives. The more than 200-year-old document sheds an unflattering light on Clark and his anti-Indigenous scheming.

In 1816, Clark, then the governor of Missouri Territory, sent the map to Washington, D.C., accompanied by a letter that proposed extending the territory’s southern boundary into lands held by the Quapaw. By extending the boundary to the south and dispossessing the Quapaw people, Clark could legitimize squatter encampments on their land. That plan failed, but Clark floated a lot of similar lines with Washington, and only a couple years later there was a Quapaw cession of even more land than he originally proposed — 28 million acres that later became territory for reassignment during the removal of the Eastern tribal nations.

In his 1816 map, however, Clark had also offhandedly sketched another border extension to the north, one not based on any existing treaties or agreements.

Robert Lee, the assistant professor of history and Fellow of Selwyn College at the University of Cambridge who found the missing map, calls the northern boundary extension line “a cartographic equivalent of a Freudian slip.” According to Lee, the rediscovered map shows that Clark also wanted to push the border north, dispossessing the Sauk, Miskwaki and Iowa people, in order to legitimize another illegal settler encampment called Boon’s Lick. This plan succeeded. Over the next two centuries, however, nobody appeared to know how or when Missouri Territory first sought to expand northward.

“If you just ask the question, ‘How did the northern boundary of the state of Missouri come into being?’ and you go into the library and look for material on that, you won’t find any clear explanation,” Lee told HCN.

And now we know.

The whole idea that these white colonizers are “heroes,” something still very prominent throughout the American West only holds up if you believe genocide was an outright positive. Of course, lots of white people do think that.

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