Sham Fight, Mandan Boys

  • George Catlin, Sham Fight, Mandan Boys, 1832-1833, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr., 1985.66.455

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“The sham-fight . . . of the Mandan boys . . . is a part of their regular exercise, and constitutes a material branch of their education. During the pleasant mornings of the summer, the little boys between the age of seven and fifteen are called out, to the number of several hundred, and being divided into two companies, each of which is headed by some experienced warrior . . . they are led out into the prairie at sunrise, where this curious discipline is regularly taught them. Their bodies are naked, and each one has a little bow in his left hand and a number of arrows made of large spears of grass, which are harmless in their effects . . . on the tops of their heads are slightly attached small tufts of grass, which answer as scalps, and in this plight, they follow the dictates of their experienced leaders . . . through the judicious evolutions of Indian warfare.” (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 19, 1841; reprint 1973)

Sham Fight, Mandan Boys
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
  • Western
  • Children
  • Ceremony – Indian – Sham Fight
  • Ethnic – Indian – Mandan
Object Number
Linked Open Data
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