Young Omahaw, War Eagle, Little Missouri, and Pawnees
Charles Bird King
Born: Newport, Rhode Island 1785
Died: Washington, District of Columbia 1862
oil on canvas 28 in. x 36 1/8 in. (71.1 x 91.8 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Miss Helen Barlow
Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, South Wing
These Plains Indian chiefs were among many who traveled to Washington to meet with the president to negotiate their territorial rights with the government. At the White House, the Capitol, and in private homes, policymakers employed bribery, dazzle, and intimidation to win the cooperation of these men. In his Seventh Street studio, Charles Bird King painted their portraits, creating a gallery of allies in the government’s plan to settle the Indian question peacefully.
War Eagle wears a presidential peace medal, valued by Native Americans as a sign of status and worn on all formal occasions. The artist painted the chiefs with a war axe, blood-red face paint, and eagle feathers atop their heads, reinforcing the romantic image of Indians as savages. One Englishman, however, saw them differently. He described them as "men of large stature, very muscular, having fine open countenances, with the real noble Roman nose, dignified in their manners, and peaceful and quiet in their habits."
Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006
Ethnic - Indian - Pawnee
Portrait male - Little Missouri
Portrait male - War Eagle
Portrait male - Young Omahaw
paint - oil
fabric - canvas