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Pipestone Quarry on the Coteau des Prairies, 1836–37
oil
19 1/2 x 27 1/4 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.

Catlin's final western tour was to the Pipestone Quarry in southwestern Minnesota, a rich deposit of red steatite used by many tribes to make pipe bowls. Off limits to non-Indians, the quarry was guarded by Santee Sioux protecting their economic interest in this valuable substance as well as the sanctity of the resource, from which, they believed, the Great Spirit had fashioned man himself. Although Catlin exaggerated various features of the site, his findings won him honor: pipestone was christened catlinite. Unfortunately, his boastful account of his visit aroused his critics, who disputed his claim of being the first white man to investigate the quarry.


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