Date of Award

Spring 2008

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Master of Arts

First Advisor

Eliga Gould


This thesis explores how the boundary-making practices of white officials came to be the dominant way of dividing and claiming the American landscape. It argues that, in the late colonial era, neither Indians nor officials could actualize their desired boundaries. Indians' map-based boundaries were annulled by white officials while officials' land surveys were subject to onsite termination and manipulation by Indian groups. White frontier settlers, however, developed powerful ways to establish their land claims---namely informal delineations backed by actual settlement---that could not be prevented by officials or Indians. In the final years of the colonial era and the first decades of the independence period, officials co-opted settlers' extra-legal methods of claiming land and applied them on the large scale. This fusion of settler boundary-making practices with those of officials allowed the U.S. government to impose its own geographic ideals on America and its various cultural groups.