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Dog Dance at Fort Snelling

1835-1837 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 19 5/8 x 27 1/2 in. (49.7 x 70.0 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.437 Not currently on view


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“Considerable preparation was made for the occasion, and the Indians informed me, that if they could get a couple of dogs that were of no use about the garrison, they would give us their favourite, the ‘dog dance’. The two dogs were soon produced by the officers, and in presence of the whole assemblage of spectators, they butchered them and placed their two hearts and livers entire and uncooked, on a couple of crotches about as high as a man's face. These were then cut into strips, about an inch in width, and left hanging in this condition, with the blood and smoke upon them. A spirited dance then ensued; and, in a confused manner, every one sung forth his own deeds of bravery in ejaculatory gutturals, which were almost deafening; and they danced up, two at a time to the stakes, and after spitting several times upon the liver and hearts, catched a piece in their mouths, bit it off and swallowed it. This was all done without losing the step (which was in time to their music), or interrupting the times of their voices.” George Catlin initially sketched the scene at Fort Snelling (in today’s Minnesota) in 1835. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 2, no. 51, 1841; reprint 1973)

Keywords

Ceremony - dance - Dog Dance

Ceremony - Indian

Ethnic - Indian - Dakota

Ethnic - Indian - Sioux

Figure group - male

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added