Revision 5.0a

I'd like to know more about:

      What's new since the last revision.

      What's coming up in the next revisions.

       Who's "we?" Who the heck is the Northern Plains Archive Project, anyway?

       How other people can help and whether you accept contributions.

       Just who all those people are on your "Honor Wall."

       Why the tribal information is so dated.





What's new since the last revision?

Revision 6.0a brings the long-awaited goal of a "Treaty Map" to the project, lying under the Level 2 maps. For the first time, we have begun to take advantage of the increased resolution of flat screen panels, moving to a suggested resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, in order to accommodate the information-rich screen slices of this new layer. In a pure sense, these graphics are less a "map" than a graphic index to the annotations for the land tracts shown. Combination of this number of state and area graphics, at this wide variety of original resolutions, and without clean matches at map borders, forced us to make some graphic compromises in pursuit of our real goal of bringing the underlying information to the site. The overall map comprises the approximate equivalent of 250 of the screens now available. We have assembled, translated, coded and posted 15 at this time, to show folks what we're after.

Revision 5.0a completed the basic levels of the information framework, using the area around the Saint Paul River Flats and downtown to demonstrate the approach. The area covered by Levels 5, 6 and 7 involved the addition of over 275 additional pages, over 1500 images and more than six megabytes of code and data to the environment, to date. Each additional time window in the existing area will add more than two MB of materials. We plan to add up to seven more, and expand the area of coverage as well.

Revision 5.0a also featured an expanded "gift shop" with new departments opening soon. This service was opened in response to requests for a source of materials relating to the materials and approach used by the Archive Project. The emphasis is on information about the items on the shelves. The entire catalogue, including access to out-of-print work, is offered for significant featured authors and artists like Jack Weatherford and John Stewart. The selections offered for sale are items that we already have on our shelves, that we listen to or read ourselves, that we recommend to our friends, or art that we have seen and would like to own. 

Revision 4.5 (x) expanded the geographic coverage at Levels One and Two of the Deep Map. Level One previously provided nine overlapping panels. This was increased to 35 panels, covering the area from the southern tip of Alaska to the northern Yucatan peninsula. The area covered was also extended from continental coast to coast. The 1640 map was also expanded to include the same areas, and the tribal and band names appearing on it were linked to the materials from The Indian Tribes of North America. At Level Two, the corresponding geographic increase was from about 50 to over 165 map panels.

The various iterations of Rev. 4.5 also added new time windows at Levels One and Two. Time windows other than 1640 were added to the map panel centered on the Northern Plains. These additions will be extended to the remainder of the areas of the continent that are covered by the various maps. Many stop near the Mississippi. The initial postings offer views of the features and locations that mapmakers believed accurate in about 1685, 1760 and 1884.

Changes to the reset mechanism for the Deep Map information frames. Revision 4.5 included an experiment in the way in which supplemental information is provided in the upper right and lower left panels. Previous revisions caused these materials to be reset with each navigation or level change. This meant that if, for example, information about a tribal group had been pulled up into the information window, a change in the map below it to look at geographic references would also reset the information window. The information will now remain in place when such changes are made.

Revision 4.4e featured a huge addition to the Native American Tribal information. The materials about Native American Tribes from John Reed Swanton's book, The Indian Tribes of North America, were posted for all of Central America, the "lower 48," and Canada, and several thousand typographic and diacritical changes were applied. This information was been extensively hot-linked to its internal references. It is available from the "1640" button or the 1640 choice on the drop-down time windows menu at the top levels of the Deep Map.

Revision 4.4e also expanded the mid-levels of the deep map. The "deep map" demonstration opens, as before, with large-scale views of the continent, suitable for the telling of the large stories of territorial purchase, expansion of transport methods and treaty and settlement patterns. The next layers were previously represented by two single images clipped from a merger of the Stillwater and Saint Paul 1:250,000 USGS map sheets. These single images served as a transition to the demonstration area of detail around downtown Saint Paul, the Mississippi and the river flats to the south.

Revision 4.4d opened up this middle view of the plains, allowing pans and zooms of nearly 9,000 square miles centered on the ancient cultural corridors along the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. The area is bounded by the Saint Cloud area on the northwest and Prairie Island on the southeast and contains the entire modern Saint Paul/Minneapolis metropolitan area. The area of coverage now available is actually only a very small portion clipped from a giant continuous image being constructed from nearly 50 square feet of paper maps. The prototype area covered by this revision will be expanded to cover an area bounded by the tip of the Couteau de Prairie (near Sisseton, SD) on the northwest and the Quad Cities area near Moline, Illinois on the southeast in future revisions.

Revisions 4.4 c and d added an 1840 view of the northern plains, with the 1843 map issued by the War Department (based on Joseph Nicollet's surveys of 1836-40) blown up from 1:1.2 million to 1:250,000 scale, and registered to the continuous image noted above. Nicollet's map is rich with detail about habitation patterns and place names in the late 1830's. It is often called the "Mother Map" of the Northern Plains, because it was the basis for much of the subsequent mapping and naming that followed. It has been digitized in very high resolution and warped to the modern maps at intervals of 1/2 minute of latitude and longitude. There is amazing coincidence of the images, considering the technology available now and in 1840.

Multimedia. With the posting of Revision 4.4b, streaming video became available. More than 1.2 gigabytes of edited and assembled footage was streamed to about 85 megabytes of media and posted to the site. The initial video postings are from the activities surrounding the rededication of Harriet Island's Phase I, on September 9th, 2000. You will notice that the "working river" button on the initial navigation frame has moved from "coming soon" up into the active area. Clicking this button will move you into a new frameset, with its own menu buttons. Click the "Harriet Island" or the "River Plays" button and the buttons to play the streaming videos will appear in the upper right frame. Choose your connection speed and the video will connect and then buffer itself. If you have a lot of time, you can choose the buttons under "DSL" and the files will buffer in accordance with your settings in RealPlayer. This will give you much better video quality, but the buffering may take a very long time.

The deep map demonstration received the lion's share of the new work in Revision 4.4a. 

The area of the continent covered was increased by nearly 400% at the first and second levels, to reach from Seattle and Fresno on the west to Montreal and Boston on the east, and from Edmonton, The Pas and James Bay on the north to points well south of Wichita, Paducah and Norfolk.

This was accompanied by a substantial increase in the number of First Nations tribes and bands indexed on the 1640 map and the materials from Swanton describing them. The previous revision included materials on the tribes associated with 14 states. This revision raised the total is to 41 states and the entire country of Canada, ready for detailed proofing and addition of diacritical information. (Revision 4.4e has nearly completed the process for the entire continent, although some proofing and cosmetic work remains to be done.)

The base was laid for hyperlinks (inserted in 4.4e) within the Swanton material and the first steps toward expanding it with regard to individual tribes, beginning along the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers.

An increase in readability and comprehensibility. The materials in the upper right and lower left frames of the deep map demonstration have been modified and expanded. These materials have also been keyed to the zoom, navigation and time-shift buttons, so that any shift in the material in the main panel is accompanied by a corresponding change in the annotations and explanations, where needed. Type color changes have been added to alert the reader during rapid click-throughs.

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What's coming up in the next revisions?

Additions to the soundtrack to the hidden history of the nation. The list of titles discussed in the American Basics Recordings Collection in the Gift Shop will expand with additions to the "blues" shelves prior to the mid-'60s and the opening of shelves for pre-war jazz. We are also working on a matrix of time lines relating the music and the artists to major historic events.

Addition of more time lines and more area to the deeper levels of the interface. At the most extreme levels of zoom, historic maps from 1874 and 1900 are being registered to modern maps at a reference scale of 1:24,000 to add to the 1851 and 1867 time windows. This gets to be pretty interesting. At its most basic level, the process involves putting a map together from pieces and then taking the result apart again to register it to the other maps. Map-making was far from precise in those days, and the work has revealed that sometimes entire streets were left out, for instance. These are the levels that will be opened to materials from the public in the near future. 

Expansion and enrichment of the mid-levels of the deep map. The approximately 9,000 square miles of the plains posted with this revision will be pushed out along the river valleys of the Saint Croix, Minnesota/Red, Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers, with the run of the Mississippi from the Twin Cities to Saint Louis emphasized. The appropriate sections of Joseph Nicollet's map will become available at the same time. Since many of the place names on Nicollet's map are in native languages, arrangements are underway to have Native American elders pronounce and explain these words, and the appropriate media files will be available at a mouse click. 

Many more multimedia files produced at the Archive Project. In addition to this language work, more than a dozen filming trips have been made throughout the region, to develop the raw footage needed to produce streaming audio and video files. The initial production work is pointed toward delivering material about the "working rivers" of the area, beginning with the Mississippi. Early prototypes of this work were shown at the Fillmore Mississippi River Heritage Conferences, and have been demonstrated elsewhere as the footage accumulated. It is now being cut into a final beta version for review by the project advisory board and other interested parties, and will initially appear here for that purpose. Footage from the September 9, 2000 towboat competition on the Mississippi has been assembled and posted, and we are scouting for historical footage from previous competitions.

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Who's "we?" Who the heck is the Northern Plains Archive Project, anyway?

Oh man, is that a long story. These days it's partially an editorial "we" representing one primary author and designer, a whole slew of formal and informal advisors, and an even wider circle of folks to whom promises were made that the project would not be abandoned so long as it had a breath of life left in it.

It started with an idea, in 1985. Ronald Reagan was President, the Berlin Wall still stood tall, the Iran-Contra affair had not yet surfaced, the first national observance of Martin Luther King day was still in the future, and Christa McAuliffe was teaching school in New Hampshire. In a kitchen in Fort Foote, Maryland, some old friends were talking about time, and life, and war and a lot of other things, and the notion of a place for the stories of people who make history but never make the textbooks sort of coalesced.  And then it got talked about some more in Colorado, and Minnesota, and the Dakotas, and Kansas...

There is a little-known formulation, sometimes called Henriksen's Third Law of Large Organizations, which states that in a large enough setting, anything that is said out loud three times and written down twice becomes true, and takes on a life of its own. Maybe that's what happened, but the notion of a place for regular people's history refused to go away, and at some point somebody asked the critical question, "OK, but how the heck would you pay for it?" And this was followed by a lot of collective head-scratching in several states.

Most of the people scratching their heads were active and reserve military and their civilian friends. They were just noodling with the notion of a "people's history," but they were thinking very hard about a whole separate issue. The world was a very scary place and these folks were almost exclusively tactical combat arms types and the people who worried about them. They could feel a war coming, but they didn't know where. "Tactical," especially in ground forces, means you get shot at. In those days it also meant that whether and where a war might occur were strategic-level questions that were echelons above these folks. The common organizational wisdom said that they were unqualified to consider the issues.

Which didn't stop them. The other thing that they had in common was that they pretty much all were, supported, or cared about scouts and recon types, whether we're talking about cavalry and infantry scouts, Marine Corps recon, pilots, Rangers, Special Forces or whatever. This meant that not only were they going to shot at, but they would be the first ones to have the privilege of doing so. It has been said that Cavalry is not a branch of service, but a state of mind, and the same thing can be said about recon in general. Conventional, linear thinking can severely limit life expectancy, and self-sufficiency in thought and action becomes a life-style.

From the high vantage point of hindsight, what happened to this bunch of non-linear, intuitive and inductive thinkers over the next couple of years makes a lot of sense. But you have to remember that in 1985-6, brain hemisphericy and alternative problem-solving were still the province of artists, and most of these folks didn't know a palette from a pork chop. Nobody knew yet that there might be more than one kind of intelligence measure. Howard Gardner had published Frames of Mind in 1983, but it certainly hadn't gotten to their bookshelves yet. All they knew was that sometimes you just knew there were people in a wood line, and it was impossible to explain it to more linear thinkers.

The issues of how to build a place for regular people's history, and how to keep troops alive converged. Their research and intuition told them that the likely arena of conflict was beginning to look more and more like the Middle East, rather than Europe. And they realized that maps were going to be a problem.. But what if the maps were put on computers, and you could look at them in three dimensions? You could rehearse your patrols in what would later become known as a terrain visualization or virtual landscape. You could actually see, and use, terrain a whole lot better in the planning and control of operations, down at the echelons where any small edge is absolutely critical. A little later, more Native people became involved and somebody realized that, on the civilian side, you could tell the stories of the people who lived on the land, keyed to the land itself.

Most people outside the military don't know or appreciate the contributions of Native Americans to the defense of the country, and a lot of people in the military don't pay enough attention. The simple facts are these: a higher percentage of native people serve in the military than of the population at large; a higher proportion of these are in combat arms than others; and a higher percentage of native people in combat arms are in reconnaissance-related jobs than other groups. This makes it a lot less than surprising that the mix of folks who came up with the original conception of a map-based Archive was very heavy on old Recon soldiers and American Indians.

By 1987, a corporation was formed to demonstrate the concept of digital mapping and terrain visualization at the lowest tactical echelons of ground forces. The shares wound up being held by those same old soldiers that had been working on the ideas and Native Americans that joined in. By 1988 and 1989, three dimensional terrain perspectives were being demonstrated at the Pentagon and Future Battle Laboratory. The challenge became not display, but acquisition of three dimensional data to feed to the display engines that had been created. A method was developed to extract three dimensional data from existing contour maps.

By late 1988 and early 1989, "Plan A" was in place. Forward User Design & Demonstration Corp., the company formed in 1987, would give the U.S. military a terrain visualization program to be used at the lowest tactical echelons, based around the innate skills and abilities of the scouts in the command. Data to support the visualizations would be generated on the reserves and reservations of the Northern Plains, by people with an instinctive feel for landforms and terrain. Computers would be placed in homes that were still heated by wood during the winter. Outside income would be brought into these pocket economies, bypassing governmental bureaucracy and expense. The money from the military products would support the formation and building of an archive of ordinary people's history, keyed to the land, starting with those who were here first. Building of the archive data and interface would feed training, skills and income into the economy of the plains at the grass-roots level. And it would all be done by regular folks. It looked good. And then...

In November, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down and "peace broke out." Suddenly the perceived need for the products that had been developed evaporated. Plans were laid to disband ground combat organizations, not give them additional tools. Demonstrations were made at Fort Leonard Wood, Fort Monroe and Fort Leavenworth, Marine Corps and industry representatives came to Minnesota, and nothing really happened. The people that had put up money and time to prime the pump that would produce the income that would fund the archive lost their investment. There was a flurry of interest in late 1990 and 1991, during the Persian Gulf War, but no commitment.

And by the mid-1990's, if the whole thing had just been about business, that would have been the end of the story.

But it had never really been just about business. And the conversations in kitchens, and around fires, and in cars rolling across the plains made it clear that the whole concept of a home for the common history of people was important to a lot of folks and they didn't want it to just fade away. So, if Plan A didn't work, what's Plan B? Well, keep working for one thing.

Since then, the work has been to demonstrate the concept, supporting it any way possible. For a long time, the people who "got it" didn't have any money, and the people who had money didn't "get it." It became obvious that verbal descriptions of what was being proposed weren't persuasive, and that the things to be developed by grant money had to be developed and demonstrated in order to get the grant money to develop them in the first place. The noun "conundrum" began to see more active use than ever previously in these parts. Along the way, the skills and knowledge accumulated by working on the project have been shared, other programs and organizations have been supported, and the meaning of true friendship has been redefined among the people who refused to give up on the project. 

In 1999 and 2000, things began to change. More people began to understand what was being talked about, as the composite historic maps and materials were demonstrated at public events. Organizations like the Ramsey County Historical Society and the Minnesota Historical Society saw the archive as a supplement to the work they had been doing for years, and not as competition, and opened access to some material. On the 29th of December, 1999, the first posting of this web site occurred. 

Since then, the site has been continuously expanded and, as the calendar moves to 2014, we are opening an initiative to seek out alliances with historical organizations and others with an interest in this unique interface to the history of the Northern Plains.

In summary

The Northern Plains Archive Project is:

A hand-built information environment, innovative intake facility and technology “hot house” for history, learning, language and cultural preservation efforts.

The Project Director is

Gene Henriksen

The Board of Advisors are

Chief Dennis Pashe

Jack Weatherford

Dr. Angela Cavender Wilson

Dr. David Taylor

Jonathan Wilmshurst

William Dunn

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How can other people can help?

Good thoughts and letters or notes of support would help a lot. Letters and e-mails that can be attached to proposals and reflect the opinion of outside parties are very useful. If you know of a foundation or other potential funding source that might be interested in helping, and can introduce us, that would be great. Mostly, if you like the idea and what you see being done to make it real, let us know. Encouragement is priceless, and criticism is healthy.

 We have had offers of volunteer help, and we're about at the point that we can accept them. If you would be interested in proofreading digitized material against the printed original documents, for instance, please let us know. The material from Swanton is an obvious first priority and there is more coming.

What about contributions?

That's really hard. The project is in no position to turn money down, but it really feels like regular folks have put enough into this thing. We're looking to work for hire and corporate and foundation sources to fund the next generation of the project, so that it can start to earn its own way and pay some license fees back to the people who have dug so deep for so long.

If you can really afford to throw some money in the fire let us know, and we'll talk about it. The Archive Project is not yet a qualified 501(c)(3) not-for-profit (that's a goal for 2004), but we do have a qualified fiscal agent, and contributions can be deductible.

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Just who are all those people on the "Honor Wall."

They are exactly who it says under the picture of the rocksópeople who gave the friendship, money, prayers, advice, moral support, guidance and examples of how to live that have kept the project going. They didn't know they were going to wind up being recognized in this way, and they would certainly never seek such a thing. We didn't ask them, we just did it. The people who advise the project are on there, the people who invested money to try to do a good thing are on there, the people whose examples and memory we draw on for strength are on there, the organizations that have made funding, materials and equipment available are on there, and the people who have believed, and taught, and encouraged, and prayed for us are on there as well.

Besides, most of these folks are not going to be in the history texts, in spite of how special they are, the people they have helped and influenced in a good way, and the contributions they have made. Theirs are exactly the sorts of stories the Archive Project is about, so we've started telling them.

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Why is the tribal information so dated?

You have to start someplace. It is true that John Swanton's work was issued in 1953, but the general consensus is that there is nothing better to use as a starting point. There are much more comprehensive and recent materials about individual First Nations, but for the broad picture of who was where, and when, he's still pretty much the guy.

Also, where people were in the early 1600's isn't going to change between 1950 and 2002, if the information is accurate. Where there are inaccuracies that have been discovered in the last 50 years, they will be found and information added to this initial material.

Swanton's map, and the compilation it graphically represents, is meant to be a broad backdrop, on a continental scale. The Archive Project is trying to build a home for other people's information, not put it together for them, although we'll assist where we can. The dream is that these tribes and bands, and these geographic areas, will be painted-in, in detail, over the years to come. In that way, the archive can build toward its goal of being a place for all the stories, starting with the first ones. 

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