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Black Hawk/Catlin

George Catlin created “Catlin Painting the Portrait of Mah-to-toh-pa” from memory, years after becoming friends with the second chief of the Mandan people. It appears as the title-page illustration of his book about living among the tribes of the Missouri River. Catlin’s manuscript—and some 500 paintings—provide testimony not only to the country’s fascination with American Indians but also to the artist’s ambition to document disappearing frontier cultures.

Black Hawk’s ledger book “Sans Arc Lakota” provides invaluable visual testimony to the nation’s Native American heritage. His drawings revealed intriguing details of the Lakota people—from manner of dress to social customs. In doing so, he captured a way of life fast disappearing as settlers moved West in increasing numbers and tribes were moved to reservations.

Picturing America has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Because democracy demands wisdom.
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