Indigenous Midwest is an enduring, open-ended project that envisions the region as an indigenous space, contests the prevailing notion American Indians were permanently swept away in the face of westward expansion, settlers, and civilization, and attests to the persistence of indigeneity evident in contemporary communities. Indian Removal policy, colloquially known as the Trail of Tears and commonly associated with the deportation of southeastern tribes to Indian Territory in the early 19th century, was applied to tribes throughout the United States. Multiple removals, settler aggression, and deceitful treaties forced indigenous peoples of the Midwest into Indian Territory, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri. But the notion of the vanished Indian is incorrect because as this project shows many remained behind or returned in the homelands even as colonial forces undermined their land base and identity as indigenous peoples. They maintain a presence throughout the Midwest today refuting the success of Indian Removal and settler hegemony.
The enduring and open-ended quality of the project stems from practices in the digital humanities which means that the project we launch is not the final project. Indigenous Midwest is a long-term project with many partners that will continue to expand in subject matter and themes. Unlike a finished book, it is a work in progress. Using mapping, modeling, and text analysis to produce exhibits, the project aims for broad accessibility. Unlike many histories on the region, the project focuses on indigenous presence in the Midwest as a productive economic, political, and culture force. Beginning with the Meskwaki and Iowa, the project highlights their experiences with Indian Removal and the Midwestern spaces they currently occupy. Today tribal members work diligently on language preservation, land reclamation, environmental concerns, knowledge production, and cultural revitalization and preservation. While their efforts are largely invisible to the majority population, the cumulative results show that the Midwest remains an indigenous space.
This site is for everyone who is interested in the Midwest, in history, in tribal communities. It is for educators who seek resources for teaching indigenous content to their students and for museum and library staff who work on exhibits and acquisitions. We offer the site as a resource for educators, to support public humanities curriculum development, as a pedagogical tool, and as a model for community engaged scholarship and for digital humanities education.