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Old Arrow Maker

modeled 1866, carved 1872 Edmonia Lewis Born: Greenbush, New York 1844 Died: London, England 1907 carved 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 Joseph S. Sinclair 1983.95.182 Not currently on view

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Old Arrow Maker

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"At the doorway of his wigwam

Sat the ancient Arrow-maker

At his side, in all her beauty,

Sat the lovely Minnehaha"

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Song of Hiawatha, first published 1855

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Edmonia Lewis's Old Arrow Maker illustrates an excerpt from the Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in which the character Minnehaha plaits "mats of flags and rushes" while her father makes "arrow-heads of jasper." They both look up to greet Hiawatha, whose presence is implied by the deer he brought as a token of marriage. Lewis often created sculptures of Native Americans, and possibly chose the character of Hiawatha because he was from the Ojibwa tribe, like her mother. The coming together of the Ojibwa and Dakota tribes 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