Core Theme–Chiefs and Leaders:
Catlin met and painted Indians famous in American
history–men such as Black Hawk, the vanquished Sac and Fox leader of
the so-called Black Hawk War; Black Hawk's rival, Kee-o-kúk, who became
chief of the Sac and Fox; The Open Door, Shawnee prophet and brother of
Tecumseh; and Os-ce-o-lá, leader of the Seminoles. All of these men
were leaders of tribes engaged in the fierce struggle to retain their
native lands. Catlin also met and painted prominent men who were still
living on their ancestral lands. These men are little recognized in
written history, but they are remembered in the oral traditions of
their tribes as powerful leaders: the Mandan chief Four Bears; the aged
Hidatsa chief Black Moccasin; Buffalo Bull's Back Fat, head chief of
the Blood Indians; and the Grand Pawnee head leader, Horse Chief.
This theme features these chiefs and leaders and many others painted
by Catlin. It highlights the personal qualities and achievements of
these leaders, and how their status was reflected in their dress and
appearance. Students discover how symbols, stance, and gesture convey
power and authority and how garments, such as "power shirts," can
proclaim the accomplishments and rank of their owners. Lesson plans on
this website correlate with national curriculum standards for U.S.
History, English Language Arts, and Visual and Performance Arts.
Classroom Activities–Lesson Plans
- Leadership, Past and Present
- Symbols of Power in Native American Clothing
- Cracking Catlin's Code
- Quiz Show! What Were You Thinking? What Did You Say?
If you need assistance in implementing these activities, please
consult our museum's education staff. They can help adapt or expand
the existing lessons to meet your circumstances and curricular goals.
Please contact us at AmericanArtEducation[at]si.edu.