Sioux Dog Feast
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.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, South Wing
George Catlin participated in a Sioux Indian ceremony of friendship at which a meal of dog meat was the center of the festivities. He explained the significance of this meal in his journal: “This feast was unquestioningly given to us as the most undoubted evidence they could give of their friendship. Knowing the spirit in which it was given, we could not but treat it respectfully, and receive it as anything but a high and marked compliment. The dog feast is truly a religious ceremony. The Indian sees fit to sacrifice his faithful companion to bear testimony to the sacredness of his vows of friendship.” Catlin’s interest in tribal customs marks him as an unusually sensitive observer at a time when many anglo Americans demonized Native Americans as savages.
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“Some few days after the steamer had arrived, it was announced that a grand feast was to be given to the great white chiefs, who were visitors amongst them; and preparations were made accordingly for it. The two chiefs . . . brought their . . . tents together, forming the two into a semi-circle, enclosing a space sufficiently large to accommodate 150 men; and sat down with that number of the principal chiefs and warriors of the Sioux nation . . . while the rest of the company all sat upon the ground, and mostly cross-legged, preparatory to the feast being dealt out . . . In the centre of the semi-circle was erected a flag-staff, on which was waving a white flag, and to which also was tied the calumet, both expressive of their friendly feelings towards us. Near the foot of the flag-staff were placed in a row on the ground, six or eight kettles, with iron covers on them, shutting them tight, in which were prepared the viands for our voluptuous feast.” (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 28, 1841; reprint 1973)
Architecture Interior - domestic - teepee
Ceremony - Indian - Dog Feast
Ethnic - Indian - Dakota
Ethnic - Indian - Sioux
Figure group - male
Recreation - leisure - eating and drinking
paint - oil
fabric - canvas
metal - aluminum - support added
About George Catlin
Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872
More works in the collection by
- George Catlin and His Indian Gallery / American Art
- George Catlin's Indian Gallery / American Art
- Exhibitions / American Art
- Online Exhibitions / Smithsonian American Art Museum
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