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Joseph Henry Sharp
The Voice of the Great Spirit
40 x 30 1/8 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Victor Justice Evans

A Crow Indian wife mourns the death of her husband, whose body has been wrapped in buffalo hides and laid to rest atop wooden scaffolding, following Crow tradition. Of the widow, Sharp said, “This one, probably exhausted, dozed and dreamed and claimed to have heard ‘The Voice of the Great Spirit’ in a message to the tribe, became frightened and ran off. I made many studies direct of graves for the painting—this one mostly of a Crow chief. Sewn in rawhide, wrapped in buffalo robes, with personal treasures. His medicine to keep evil spirits away on the long pole. His two favorite pony heads on the poles facing the east, tails west, to accompany him to the ‘Happy Hunting Ground.’ Food and many presents were given. The magpie on the pole would pluck the meat from the pony heads.”