Thursday, November 25

Happy Turkeyday George Catlin paints Wi-jun-jon

On board the Yellow Stone were two returning members of an Indian delegation to Washington, D.C. Wi-jun-jon, an Assiniboin known as Pigeon’s Egg Head or The Light, was a distinguished member of his tribe and was considered a "good" (that is friendly and cooperative) Indian by the fur traders and authorities. Fascinated with the White Man’s culture, he returned home garbed in a mixture of the white man’s clothing. Catlin was so struck by The Light’s transformation that he painted a double portrait showing the subject going to and returning from Washington. After returning to his people, The Light persisted in relating his experiences, telling stories which his people could only conceive as lies. He was murdered by another Indian.
The destruction of thousands of years of culture and civilization begins one indian at a time.
The other delegate on board was the Plains Cree He Who Has Eyes Behind Him (also known as Broken Arm). He was not popular with the traders -- that is, he was not considered a "good" Indian, but he survived. He went to Washington, decided the White Man’s ways were not for him, and returned to maintain the old ways with his people.
One indian chooses the ways of the white man, another chooses the ways of his ancestors, one considered a "good" Indian, the other was not, In any event two cultural traditions have become for all intents and purposes extinct. Later we will take a look at the Mandan Indians, and a painting of a ceremony that might have been the last for those people who were soon to exposed to Small pox, you can guess the rest. The work you see here is from a jaunt up the upper Missouri River in 1832.