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Eh-toh'k-pah-she-pée-shah, Black Moccasin, aged Chief

1832 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 29 x 24 in. (73.7 x 60.9 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.171 Not currently on view


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“The chief sachem of this tribe [Hidatsa/Minitari] is a very ancient and patriarchal looking man . . . and counts, undoubtedly, more than a hundred snows. I have been for some days an inmate of his hospitable lodge, where he sits tottering with age, and silently reigns sole monarch of his little community around him, who are continually dropping in to cheer his sinking energies, and render him their homage. His voice and his sight are nearly gone; but the gestures of his hands are yet energetic and youthful, and freely speak the language of his kind heart . . . I have . . . painted his portrait as he was seated on the floor of his wigwam, smoking his pipe, whilst he was recounting over to me some of the extraordinary feats of his life, with a beautiful Crow robe wrapped around him, and his hair wound up in a conical form upon his head, and fastened with a small wooden pin, to keep it in its place . . . This man has many distinct recollections of Lewis and Clark, who were the first explorers of this country, and who crossed the Rocky Mountains thirty years ago.” According to George Catlin, Black Moccasin’s long-stemmed pipe was a calumet, or peace pipe, “mutually smoked by the chiefs, after the terms of the treaty are agreed upon.” Black Moccasin had been a chief when Lewis and Clark visited the Hidatsa village in the winter of 1804-05; Catlin reckoned he was 105 years old in 1832. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, nos. 23, 29, 1841; reprint 1973)

Keywords

Dress - ethnic - Indian dress

Ethnic - Indian - Hidatsa

Portrait male - Black Moccasin - elderly

Portrait male - Black Moccasin - full length

Recreation - leisure - smoking

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added