Publication Date


Committee Chair

Karen K. Kemp, Ph.D.

Committee Members

Mark P. Kumler, Ph.D.
Robert Booth, ESRI


In 1837 the Ioway Indians drew a map to bring to treaty talks with the United States government. The 1837 Ioway Map project uses Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to help extract cultural, archaeological, and historical information from this rare document. Project goals include: documenting Ioway cartographic conventions; georeferencing the Ioway map to a modern base map; extracting spatial, historical, ecological and archaeological information from the georeferenced map; and designing a variety of digital (CD, web site) and non-digital (museum exhibit) presentation formats to broadly disseminate the project results.

Centered on what is now the state of Iowa, the 1837 map shows 51 rivers, nine lakes, 23 villages, and over two dozen important Ioway Indian trails. Map features are unlabeled, but historic records indicate that it was designed around two major rivers, the Mississippi and the Missouri. GIS tools were helpful in evaluating the probable identifications of a number of the other hydrographic features. The Ioway encoded information about village size and population in their symbology, information that was systematically documented using pan, zoom, measurement, and geostatistical tools, with the results stored in attribute tables.

Six different georeferencing methods were applied, three raster to vector (ESRI Georeferencing tools), and three vector to vector (ESRI Spatial Adjustment tools). None was completely successful in rectifying the Ioway map to a modern base map. Information on village and trail locations was arrived at through evaluation of the results of the six georeferencing methods in conjunction with other archaeological and historical data. Once villages and trails had been positioned on the base map, a series of overlay analyses provided additional historical and cultural information. The 1837 Ioway villages and trails were compared with villages on the 1847 Ioway map; with historic and prehistoric archaeological sites in Iowa; and with Midwestern natural resource locations. Results demonstrate that GIS tools can extend the geographic, historic and archaeological analysis of this valuable historic document.


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