May 19, 2020

How They Did It: Exposing How U.S. Universities Profited From Indigenous Land

Author: Robert Lee and Tristan Ahtone

The Morrill Act of 1862 granted expropriated Indigenous land to states in order to fund universities. Indigenous territory acquired through lopsided treaties and outright seizures was funneled through the act to make advanced agricultural and mechanical education more widely accessible. Nearly 160 years later, a team consisting of a historian, cartographer, photographer, fact-checkers, web designer, coder, and reporters, investigated the impact of this landmark legislation on tribal nations and universities. Using a a custom geodatabase, they reconstructs the Morrill Act’s enormous, scattered footprint and tell the story of the intertwined histories of the dispossession of tribal nations and the growth of fledgling land-grant universities.