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Buffalo Dance, Mandan

1835-1837 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 20 x 27 3/8 in. (50.9 x 69.4 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.440 Not currently on view


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“The [buffalo] mask is put over the head, and generally has a strip of the skin hanging to it, of the whole length of the animal, with the tail attached to it, which, passing down over the back of the dancer, is dragging on the ground. When one becomes fatigued of the exercise, he signifies it by bending quite forward, and sinking his body towards the ground; when another draws a bow upon him and hits him with a blunt arrow, and he falls like a buffalo---is seized by the bye-standers, who drag him out of the ring by the heels, brandishing their knives about him; and having gone through the motions of skinning and cutting him up, they let him off, and his place is at once supplied by another, who dances into the ring with his mask on; and by this taking of places, the scene is easily kept up night and day, until the desired effect has been produced, that of ‘making buffalo come.’” (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 18, 1841; reprint 1973)

Keywords

Ceremony - dance - Buffalo Dance

Ceremony - Indian

Ethnic - Indian - Mandan

Figure group - male

Western

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added