E) Direction & Symbol

The final moments of the 1833 negotiations thus carried a heavy symbolism that was clearly visible to those who attended. Charles Latrobe, an English traveler present at the treaty signing, described the moment at sunset as the U.S. commissioners faced west and the Indians faced east, the one looking toward the lands they had just acquired, the other toward the lake and homes they would soon be abandoning. "The glorious light of the setting sun streaming in under the low roof of the Council-House," wrote Latrobe, "fell full on the countenances of the former as they faced the West - while the pale light of the East, hardly lighted up the dark and painted lineaments of the poor Indians, whose souls evidently clave to their birth-right in that quarter." The hybrid cultural universe of Indians and Euroamericans that had existed in the Chicago area for decades was finally to be shattered by different conceptions of property and real estate. (29)

When the Potawatomis and the U.S. commissioners faced each other at Chicago in 1833, they expressed their cultural differences in the way they saw the landscape that stretched before them in the light of the setting sun. One saw the apparition of a great city upon it, while the other did not. To understand how so many nineteenth-century Americans came to share that urban vision is to discover much about their dreams for themselves and for the Great West. (35)

Nature's Metropolis (1991)
William Cronon