The Search for 10-seconds of Missing Indigenous History

As we began the storytelling process for Dodging Bullets, a film on Historical Trauma, we wanted to make sure that we did not use any stock footage for b-roll and as few historical photos as possible. Even though we were telling a story about historical events, we wanted to focus on the trauma that is being faced today.  Our research team found imagery from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s from the state, university and national archives that could help bring to life some of the stories that are shared throughout the film. While we were weaving our story together one of the things we needed to film was a map that showed where all the tribes were located before first contact. This proved to be virtually impossible. We combed through state and government archives to see if there was a map that respected the history of the First Nations people. And all maps that we were able to locate were through the colonizer’s lens and not through the perspective of how Turtle Island was truly inhabited before the British, French and Spanish regimes.

The Treaty Rights segment of the film is highly educational and features Tribal Elder Leonard Thompson Jr. (White Earth Nation, Minnesota) protesting a state law prohibiting ricing at Chief-Hole-in-the-Day Lake in Minnesota that is in opposition to the 1855 Treaty. Leonard discusses how large the Anishinaabe people’s territory was. Leonard recalls, “The Creator, he directed us to this rice here. When we landed on shore, he gave us a path, you follow the lakes, follow the streams follow the miga shell. And when you find food growing on water, this is where you are going to settle. We’re the largest tribe in this country from Hudson Bay, Minnesota, New York and down to South Carolina. We are all Anishinaabe people.”

We searched many places to find a map or visual of tribal lands and while we were able to track down maps with the Louisiana Purchase and reservations, nothing that really showed the true historical perspective and recognized all the tribes and their locations.

Finally, after months of searching for imagery to fit our criteria, we found Cartographer Aaron Carapella ( it was only then that we found a visual that portrayed a correct vision.  Aaron is a self-taught cartographer who makes maps of the locations and names of Pre-Columbian Indigenous tribes of North America circa 1490. He is part Cherokee on his mother’s side and his grandparents instilled a deep interest in Native American culture. His maps show in great detail the territory that each tribe held. All schools should be utilizing these maps in their curriculum as they are the best resource that has ever been produced.

Our next step was to make it look visually organic, so instead of busting a Ken Burns move of a picture, we decided to have it printed to canvas and draped it on a wall for a few months to get some natural looking depth of field. We used the land of the Anishinaabeg as a focus and then timed the camera to do a fly by. The end result was a 10-second b-roll that visually explains exactly Leonard’s verbalization. The hours that were spent on this b-roll was critically important to the story that must be told from an Indigenous point of view, and Aaron’s Cartography made it happen.

Turtle Island Photo - Whitecap Dakota -
Cartographer Aaron Carapella -