Lilawaste Lake Country Refuge-To-Be?

A stunning 1930s proposal for protected Native American refuges in the United States.

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This highly detailed, though somewhat confusing, map shows an idealized outline of the ‘Lilawaste Lake Country Refuge-To-Be’ – a long hoped-for, though fictional, protected area set aside for use by Native American peoples in the United States. (Lila waste means ‘best’ in the Lakota language). The engaging image uses a variety of text and symbols to outline the proposed organization of the refuge, one of several aspired to be established across the U.S.

Everything from boating regulations and firearms use to ecological management and visitor access is explained within the map. Emphasis is clearly on the indigenous culture, agriculture, and conservation methods – even the cartography incorporates a mix of Western and Native American symbology and visual mechanisms. However, the proposal is approached with a level of grounded realism. The upper left suggests ‘aboriginal innovations as SPECIAL NOVELTY ATTRACTIONS’ and numerous blocks of text reflect contemporary racial concerns between white people and ‘Injuns.’

The map and accompanying narrative are designed to be deliberately provocative, as indicated by the creator’s name, Iktomi Witkokhoka, in the lower right. Likely a nom de plume, Iktomi is a trickster spirit in the mythology of the Lakota people. The map was included as part of America Needs Indians!, written by Itkomi Lila Sika and published in 1937 by Bradford-Robinson. The under-appreciated volume, also written in the antagonistic style of the trickster Itkomi, is an incredible declaration of European/American misdeeds and a powerful statement of the reconciliation necessary to heal the nation’s wounds. The proposed conservation areas, along with indigenous universities, underpinned this process. As described by the National Park Service;

“One manifestation of the change in attitude between Indians and the federal government was a proposal by Lakota Sioux writer Iktomi Lila Sica for the creation of national “Indian-wild life sanctuaries” that would encompass lands surrounding Yellowstone, Glacier, and Wind Cave national parks as well as Badlands National Monument. These “wilderness area[s] for Indians and wild life” were a throwback to ideas espoused by George Catlin a century before, and more recently to Black Elk, a contemporary Sioux leader.”

Map Details

Publication Date: 1937

Author: Iktomi Witkotkoka

Sheet Width (in): 31.75

Sheet Height (in): 15.5

Condition: A

Condition Description: Printed on thin paper that's crisply creased along originally issued fold lines. One small spot of soiling in the lower left, but overall in near fine condition. Includes a first edition copy of America Needs Indians!, 425 pp. bound in tan cloth. Missing dust jacket.

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