Dog Dance at Fort Snelling

  • George Catlin, Dog Dance at Fort Snelling, 1835-1837, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr., 1985.66.437

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“Considerable preparation was made for the occasion, and the Indians informed me, that if they could get a couple of dogs that were of no use about the garrison, they would give us their favourite, the ‘dog dance’. The two dogs were soon produced by the officers, and in presence of the whole assemblage of spectators, they butchered them and placed their two hearts and livers entire and uncooked, on a couple of crotches about as high as a man's face. These were then cut into strips, about an inch in width, and left hanging in this condition, with the blood and smoke upon them. A spirited dance then ensued; and, in a confused manner, every one sung forth his own deeds of bravery in ejaculatory gutturals, which were almost deafening; and they danced up, two at a time to the stakes, and after spitting several times upon the liver and hearts, catched a piece in their mouths, bit it off and swallowed it. This was all done without losing the step (which was in time to their music), or interrupting the times of their voices.” George Catlin initially sketched the scene at Fort Snelling (in today’s Minnesota) in 1835. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 2, no. 51, 1841; reprint 1973)

Dog Dance at Fort Snelling
On View
Not on view.
19 5/8 x 27 1/2 in. (49.7 x 70.0 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.

Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Ethnic – Indian – Dakota
  • Ethnic – Indian – Sioux
  • Ceremony – Indian
  • Ceremony – dance – Dog Dance
  • Figure group – male
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI