Shoo-de-gá-cha, The Smoke, Chief of the Tribe

  • George Catlin, Shoo-de-gá-cha, The Smoke, Chief of the Tribe, 1832, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr., 1985.66.95

George Catlin described The Smoke, chief of the Ponca tribe, in his travel accounts: The chief, who was wrapped in a buffalo robe, is a noble specimen of native dignity and philosophy. I conversed much with him; and from his dignified manners, as well as from the soundness of his reasoning, I became fully convinced that he deserved to be the sachem of a more numerous and prosperous tribe. He related to me with great coolness and frankness, the poverty and distress of his nation; and with the method of a philosopher, predicted the certain and rapid extinction of his tribe, which he had not the power to avert … He sat upon the deck of the steamer, overlooking the little cluster of his wigwams mingled amongst the trees; and, like Caius Marius, weeping over the ruins of Carthage, shed tears as he was descanting on the poverty of his ill-fated little community.” The artist painted this image at a Ponca village in 1832, apparently on his voyage up the Missouri River. (Catlin, Letters and Notes , vol. 1, no. 26, 1841; reprint 1973)

Shoo-de-gá-cha, The Smoke, Chief of the Tribe
Not on view
2924 in. (73.760.9 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.

Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Portrait male – Smoke
  • Dress – ethnic – Indian dress
Object Number
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