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Snowshoe Dance at the First Snowfall

1835-1837 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 19 1/2 x 26 7/8 in. (49.5 x 68.2 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.451 Not currently on view


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“The snow-shoe dance . . . is exceedingly picturesque, being danced with the snow shoes under the feet, at the falling of the first snow in the beginning of winter, when they sing a song of thanksgiving to the Great Spirit for sending them a return of snow, when they can run on their snow shoes in their valued hunts, and easily take the game for their food.” The details were probably sketched at Fort Snelling (in today’s Minnesota) in 1835, but George Catlin never saw the dance performed in winter. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 2, no. 51, 1841, reprint 1973; Truettner, The Natural Man Observed, 1979)

Keywords

Ceremony - dance - Snowshoe Dance

Ceremony - Indian

Ethnic - Indian - Ojibwa

Figure(s) in exterior - frontier

Western

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added