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Dance of the Chiefs, Mouth of the Teton River

1832-1833 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 24 x 29 in. (60.9 x 73.7 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.436 Not currently on view

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“In this dance, which I have called ‘the dance of the chiefs,’ for want of a more significant title, was given by fifteen or twenty chiefs and doctors; many of whom were very old and venerable men. All of them came out in their head-dresses of war-eagle quills, with a spear or staff in the left hand, and a rattle in the right. It was given in the midst of he Sioux village, in front of the head chief's lodge, and beside the medicine-man who beat on the drum, and sang for the dance, there were four young women standing in a row, and chanting a sort of chorus for the dancers; forming one of the very few instances that I ever have met, where the women are allowed to take any part in the dancing, or other game or amusement, with the men.” George Catlin sketched this scene near Fort Pierre in 1832, or perhaps even painted it on the spot in great haste. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 29, 1841, reprint 1973; Truettner, The Natural Man Observed, 1979)


Ceremony - dance

Ceremony - Indian

Ethnic - Indian - Dakota

Ethnic - Indian - Sioux

Figure group



paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added