Larger Type
Smaller Type

Search Collections

Sham Fight, Mandan Boys

1832-1833 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. 1985.66.455 Not currently on view

Luce Center Label

“The sham-fight . . . of the Mandan boys . . . is a part of their regular exercise, and constitutes a material branch of their education. During the pleasant mornings of the summer, the little boys between the age of seven and fifteen are called out, to the number of several hundred, and being divided into two companies, each of which is headed by some experienced warrior . . . they are led out into the prairie at sunrise, where this curious discipline is regularly taught them. Their bodies are naked, and each one has a little bow in his left hand and a number of arrows made of large spears of grass, which are harmless in their effects . . . on the tops of their heads are slightly attached small tufts of grass, which answer as scalps, and in this plight, they follow the dictates of their experienced leaders . . . through the judicious evolutions of Indian warfare.” (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 19, 1841; reprint 1973)


Ceremony - Indian - Sham Fight


Ethnic - Indian - Mandan



paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added