Native American Indians


Karl Bodmer Native American Indian - email, web page backgrounds

Karl Bodmer

Native American Indians through the eyes of Karl Bodmer


Karl Bodmer Swiss-born was engaged by Prince Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied (1782-1867) specifically to provide a record of his travels in North America, principally among the Plains Indians.

Their travels in North America were to last from 1832 to 1834. Well-armed with information and advice, the party left St.Louis, on the most important stage of their travels, aboard the steamer Yellow Stone on April 10 1833. They proceeded up the treacherous Missouri River along the line of forts established by the American Fur Company. At Bellevue they encountered their first Indians, then went on to make contact with the Sioux tribe, learning of and recording their little known ceremonial dances and powerful pride and dignity. Transferring from the Yellow Stone to another steamer, the Assiniboin, Karl Bodmer continued to Fort Clark, visiting there the Mandan, Mintari and Crow tribes, then the Assiniboins at Fort Union, the main base of the American Fur Company.

On a necessarily much smaller vessel they journeyed through the extraordinary geological scenery of that section of the Missouri to Fort Mackenzie in Montana, establishing a cautious friendship with the fearsome Blackfeet. From this, the westernmost point reached, it was considered too dangerous to continue and the return journey downstream began. The winter brought its own difficulties and discomforts, but Karl Bodmer was still able to execute numerous studies of villages, dances and especially the people, who were often both intrigued and delighted by the work of Karl Bodmer. The portraits are particularly notable for their capturing of individual personalities, as well as forming a primary account of what were to become virtually lost cultures.

Mehkskéhme-Sukahs, ('Iron Shirt') the most distinguished of the chiefs who gathered to welcome the arrival of the keelboat Flora at Fort McKenzie web page backgrounds. Mehkskéhme-Sukahs
Prince Maximilian referred to Mehkskéhme-Sukahs ('Iron Shirt') as the most distinguished of the chiefs who gathered to welcome the arrival of the keelboat Flora at Fort McKenzie on 9 August 1833. At the time he was wearing a lace-trimmed scarlet uniform obtained from the British traders as a gift. He posed for this portrait on August 11th wearing a hide shirt decorated with otter fur, beadwork and metal trade buttons. In his hair are feathers, a bear claw and what appears to be a small ermine with blue beads for eyes.
Karl Bodmer web page backgrounds border Blackfoot Indian on Horseback Email stationery Blackfoot Indian on Horseback
Painted at Fort McKenzie in 1833. Bodmer shows horse and man not as master and servant but as a partnership. This image is a potent symbol of the Plains Indian's relationship to his environment. The Blackfeet are the archetypal Plains Indians, buffalo providing nearly all their needs. They were one of the first tribes to see the possibilities of the horse when it became available in the 18th cent., and had soon developed a well-deserved reputation for their horsemanship, and maintained huge herds of horses. The combination of the horse with the gun proved overpowering, and they became masters of the northern plains.
Abdih-Hiddisch. A Minatarre Chief. Email stationery or web page backgrounds border Abdih-Hiddisch. A Minatarre Chief
Painted in 1834, an important Hidatsa chief who was the keeper of an important medicine bundle and had gone after the enemy six times on successful raids without losing any of his own men. His extensive tattoos are unusual for Hidatsa men (normally limited to the right breast and arm). He is shown wearing a European hat topped by a coup feather and a peace medal around his neck. His leggings are trimmed with blue and white beadwork, the knoblike symbols may stand for the many horses he captured and gave away as presents. Thunderbirds adorn his beaded moccasins, in his right hand is a war hatchet with attached scalps.
Elkhorn Pyramid on the Upper Missouri - sample of email stationery which can also be used as web page backgrounds border Elkhorn Pyramid on the Upper Missouri
In July 1833, between Forts Union and McKenzie, the keelboat Flora stopped to allow Maximilian and his party to examine a remarkable cairn of elk antlers on the prairie, just inland from the Missouri River. The ground in all directions was littered with the antlers cast during the bulls' annual shedding. Each Blackfoot hunting party as they passed, added to the growing pile, sometimes marking them with red paint to indicate the number in the party. Intended as a charm to ensure a successful hunt. When sketched by Bodmer it was over fifteen feet high and contained over a thousand antlers.
Péhriska-Rúhpa. Moennitarri Warrior in the Costume of the Dog Danse - Email stationery or web page backgrounds border Péhriska-Rúhpa. Moennitarri Warrior
in the Costume of the Dog Danse

This highly-charged portrait of Peaacute;hriska-Rúhpa ('Two Ravens')warrior and chief of the Hidatsa encapsulates the vanished era of the Plains Indian. It has a great sense of immediacy, intensity and of noise and movement. A moment in time is captured. Pehriska-Ruhpa dances in his regalia as a principal leader of the Dog Society of his village. The white tips on the glossy black feathers of the headdress have a tiny down feather at the point of each plume. The central vertical plume is painted red. Dyed horse hair floats from coloured sticks attached to the shafts of the turkey feathers. The rattle made of small hooves or claws attached to a beaded stick is held in his right hand.
A skin lodge of an Assiniboin chief - email stationery or web page backgrounds border A skin lodge of an Assiniboin chief
On June 10th 1833, a camp of about twenty five tipis was set up by a band of Assiniboin near Fort Union, at the junction of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers. The tipi in the foreground is painted with bear figures: the owner of this tipi was assumed to have strong supernatural powers (an essential for success in battle, or for aid in treating the sick). In front of the tipi the chief's wife loads a travois harnessed to a dog: these elegantly simple constructions consisted of a netted circular platform attached to long poles and were used to transport baggage. A group of three unused travois stand propped to the left of the woman.
Noápeh, An Assiniboin Indian and Psíhdjä-Sáhpa, A Yanktonan Indian web page backgrounds Noápeh, An Assiniboin Indian
Noápeh ('Troop of Soldiers'), posed patiently for Bodmer at Fort Union and which allowed time for the details of the elaborate head-dress to be recorded: the projecting antelope horns have been cut and thinned and tipped with dyed horsehair. Between the horns is a crest of clipped feathers. The long fringe is made of leather, each strand bound intermittently with porcupine quills.
Psihdja-Sahpa, A Yanktonan Indian
Psíhdjä-Sáhpa, a young Yankton Sioux warrior was initially reluctant to pose, he eventually relented in January 1834 and is shown here with bear paws painted on his chest, and with ornaments including beaded hairbows, strings of dentalium shells and beads and brass bangles. At the time of painting the Fort was so cold Bodmer's paints and brushes froze and constantly thawed out with hot water.
Fac Simile of an Indian Painting - email stationery or web page backgrounds border Fac Simile of an Indian Painting
The work of the prominent Mandan Chief, Mato-Tope ('Four Bears'), depicting an incident from amongst his own many war exploits. During hand-to-hand combat with a Cheyenne Chief, he grabbed for his opponent's knife and wounded his own hand in the process. He managed to get hold of the knife and used it to kill his opponent. Mato-Tope was the second chief of the Mandans and a popular leader amongst his people, respected for his prowess in battle. Admired by Prince Maximilian, not only for his bravery and his knowledge of the customs of the Mandans and the neighboring Arikaras, but also for his strength of character and generosity.
Mássika, Saki Indian and Wakusaee, Musquake Indian web page backgrounds Mássika, Saki Indian
Wakusaee, Musquake Indian

A fine double portrait of these warriors from the Sauk (or Sac) and Fox (Mesquaki, Muskake or Muskwaki) Tribes. Both men are shown half length and were apparently sketched by Bodmer on 27 and 28 March 1833 in St. Louis, Missouri, during the two week period when final arrangements were made for the travelers' journey up the Missouri River. Massika ('Turtle') was one of a number of Sauk and Fox who came to St. Louis to try to arrange the release of Black Hawk, a Sauk chief, who had engaged in a series of running battles with the US Army before being defeated and captured on 3 August 1832.
Mató-Tópe ('Four Bears') was the second chief of the Mandans, respected for his prowess in battle. Here Mató-Tópe presents a living record of his bravery in battle web page backgrounds. Máto-Tópe
Mató-Tópe ('Four Bears') was the second chief of the Mandans, respected for his prowess in battle. Here Mató-Tópe presents a living record of his bravery in battle. In his hair he wears a wooden knife to represent the weapon he wrestled from a Cheyenne, the six coloured wooden sticks represent gunshot wounds, the split turkey feather stands for an arrow injury and the others feathers probably represent other feats. His membership of the prestigious Dog Society is shown by the painted owl plumage at the back of his head, the barred stripes on his arm represent more feats and the ochre hand on his chest indicates that he has taken prisoners.
Indian Artifacts - email stationery or web page backgrounds border Indian Artifacts
Based on drawings of items Prince Maximilian purchased and brought back to Europe as well as belongings sketched by Bodmer in situ and retained by their original Indian owners. Includes a stone knife found near New Harmony, Indiana; a gunstock type club; a lance, Sauk and Fox Tribe; shield; a rawhide storage container, Cheyenne Tribe; moccasins, Iroquois Tribe; a quiver, bow and arrows, Crow or Sioux Tribe; a pipe, Mandan Tribe; ball, Mandan or Hidatsa Tribe; a hoop and pole game, Mandan Tribe; a war whistle, Mandan Tribe; drum, Mandan Tribe; moccasins, Sioux Tribe.
Pachtüwa-Chtä is shown in this left border web page backgrounds Pachtüwa-Chtä
Bodmer and Prince Maximilian were introduced to this member of the Arikara tribe by Mato-Tope (a Mandan chief) in March 1834 whilst they over-wintered at Fort Clark. He stands, armed with a gunstock club with a painted metal blade, his head adorned with symbols of his prowess in battle. In return for posing for his portrait Pachtüwa-Chtä asked for a picture of a bear against a forested background which he was probably going to employ as part of his personal medicine as an aid in either hunting or battle.



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Bodmer Native American Indians Page created 28th March 2006 by Vicky Flanagan
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