Larger Type
Smaller Type

Search Collections

Shoo-de-gá-cha, The Smoke, Chief of the Tribe

1832 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 29 x 24 in. (73.7 x 60.9 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.95 Not currently on view

Luce Center Label

George Catlin described The Smoke, chief of the Ponca tribe, in his travel accounts: “The chief, who was wrapped in a buffalo robe, is a noble specimen of native dignity and philosophy. I conversed much with him; and from his dignified manners, as well as from the soundness of his reasoning, I became fully convinced that he deserved to be the sachem of a more numerous and prosperous tribe. He related to me with great coolness and frankness, the poverty and distress of his nation; and with the method of a philosopher, predicted the certain and rapid extinction of his tribe, which he had not the power to avert . . . He sat upon the deck of the steamer, overlooking the little cluster of his wigwams mingled amongst the trees; and, like Caius Marius, weeping over the ruins of Carthage, shed tears as he was descanting on the poverty of his ill-fated little community.” The artist painted this image at a Ponca village in 1832, apparently on his voyage up the Missouri River. (Catlin, Letters and Notes , vol. 1, no. 26, 1841; reprint 1973)


Dress - ethnic - Indian dress

Ethnic - Indian - Ponca

Portrait male - Smoke

Portrait male - Smoke - full length


paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added