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Pigeon's Egg Head (The Light) Going to and Returning from Washington, 1837–39
29 x 24 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.

Eighteen months later, the artist met Pigeon's Egg Head on his return home to the northern Plains. In this before-and-after portrait, Catlin shows the Assiniboine arriving in Washington in a splendid buckskin suit, as noble and classic in its own way as the architecture of the Capitol in the background. On his return, dressed in a "general's" uniform accessorized with umbrella, fan, and bottles of whiskey, all gifts of the government, he made a far less harmonious sight. The final indignity was "a pair of water-proof boots, with high heels, which made him 'step like a yoked hog.'" His tribesmen rejected his descriptions of the white man's cities, and his persistence in telling "evil lies" eventually led to his murder. Catlin's message—civilization destroys Indian culture—doesn't get much clearer than this.

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