No Dig, No Fly, No Go : How Maps Restrict and Control. That’s the title of a new book by Mark Monmonier that I’ve just barely started to read. The introductory paragraph made me think (in a contrary way) of the leftmost of the two points circled in white on the above Royce Map of southern Michigan. Here is how Monmonier starts out:
Maps exert power in two ways: by shaping public opinion and by telling us where we can’t go and what we can’t (or must) do in specific places. This book examines the second type, which I call imperative maps because of their similarity to imperative sentences–the bossy ones that often end in an exclamation point. Whether blatant or subtle, the imperative map is usually intended to stifle movement or to restrict an activity with a spatial dimension.
That’s true. Boundaries do matter — they often tell us where we can’t go. A lot of my bicycle expeditions are to treaty lines on the landscape that once defined where Indians no longer owned land and no longer had the right to travel on it where they pleased. There are a lot of those.
But on a weekend afternoon last October I rode to a place where the exact position of a treaty line didn’t make much difference to anyone. It was the point of the acute angle at the southwest corner of the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw — the southwest corner of the pink area that includes present-day Lansing on the above map.
In the treaty document, the boundary of the ceded land is described as follows:
The Chippewa nation of Indians, in consideration of the stipulations herein made on the part of the United States, do hereby, forever, cede to the United States the land comprehended within the following lines and boundaries: Beginning at a point in the present Indian boundary line, which runs due north from the mouth of the great Auglaize river, six miles south of the place where the base line, so called, intersects the same; thence, west, sixty miles; thence, in a direct line, to the head of Thunder Bay River; . . .
The beginning point is shown by the right-most of the two white circles. The baseline and meridian lines had already been established in 1819, at least on paper. Some parts of them had already been surveyed. The plan for dividing up the land into townships of 6×6 miles had already been established, though it would take several years before government surveyors would get them all marked with stakes in the ground. In specifying that the starting point be six miles south of the base line, and that the boundary proceed straight west for 60 miles, the treaty specified that the cession boundary follow the boundary of townships that were soon to be surveyed. From the point 60 miles west of the meridian, the cession boundary would depart from township boundaries and go on an angle to the north-northwest.
The township boundaries were eventually surveyed, but the line that slants to the northwest was not — at least not in this part of Michigan. Two years later the Potawatomi people would cede most of the remaining land in southwest Michigan (shown in blue-green) and make much of the 1819 boundary irrelevant.
But I wanted to see what was at that point, anyway. Here is some of what I found:
Here I was, at the southwest corner of Richland Township in Kalamazoo County, facing north to take a photo of the intersection that is the southwest corner of that treaty line. The SUV had been following the south boundary of the treaty line. The line to the head of Thunder Bay River goes from the center of the intersection off to the northeast. It is of course unmarked. There never was any reason to mark it.
I’m not very good at reading minds, but my guess is that none of the drivers at this intersection was at that moment thinking about the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw and how this point marked the southwest corner.
Here I’m back on the north side of the intersection, taking a photo of a fire hydrant because there sure wasn’t any mark left by that angling treaty line (somewhere across the road to the left) to photograph It was a boundary that doesn’t matter very much now, and never did.
YTD mileage: 557