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Old Arrow Maker

modeled 1866, carved 1872 Edmonia Lewis Born: Greenbush, New York 1844 Died: London, England 1907 marble 21 1/2 x 13 5/8 x 13 3/8 in. (54.5 x 34.5 x 34.0 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman Robbins 1983.95.179 Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, South Wing

Gallery Label

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha inspired Edmonia Lewis to carve the Old Arrow Maker, Minnehaha of the Dakota tribe plaits "mats of flags and rushes" while her father makes "arrow-heads of jasper." They both look up to greet Hiawatha, an Ojibwe, whose presence is implied by the deer he brought as a token of marriage. Lewis's evocative subjects often reflect her dual heritage; her father was African American and her mother Chippewa (Ojibwe). After studying at Oberlin College she became a sculptor, working in Boston and Rome despite the social challenges posed by her race and gender. The cessation of hostilities between the Ojibwe and Dakota after years of inter-tribal war that the poem and sculpture represent may refer to Lewis's hopes for reconciliation between the North and South after the Civil War. In the story, Hiawatha later marries Minnehaha with the wish that ". . . old feuds might be forgotten/ And old wounds be healed forever."


Dress - ethnic - Indian dress

Ethnic - Indian

Figure group

Object - game - deer

Occupation - craft - arrow maker


stone - marble