Arikara Peacemaker is now available as a fine art giclee.
|Size:||48" x 36"|
|Medium:||Oil on canvas|
An Arikara warrior stands proud, fearless in his youthful strength and vitality. Never backing down from a fight, he uses his power to defend the dignity and honor of his tribe.
A warrior like this would have lived around the first decade of the 19th century, shortly after the completion of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. I have derived some of his features and accoutrements from the historical record provided by George Catlin, such as the warrior’s body paint, pipe-ax, and the trade cloth used.
The warrior wears a Jefferson Peace Medal prominently on his chest, with a dentalium shell choker at his neck. Peace medals were given out at various times in early US history, with this specific medal given out during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Such medals were coveted items as only select persons of high status in a tribe were given one.
He holds a pipe-ax, an item that could only be obtained through trade and was highly prized among the Arikara for its dual practical and sacred uses. The axe head, made of strong metal, could be used in battle or for practical chores. The pipe portion would have been used in sacred ceremonies for the smoking of tobacco. The juxtaposition of these two different functions, all in one tool, lent great significance to the pipe-ax.
Over his shoulder, the warrior wears a buffalo robe. These robes were common among the different Plains tribes, as the buffalo hide provided heat during colder months. The buffalo held great significance to the Arikara and were considered to be sacred. The animal provided life and strength in the form of food, hide, clothing, utensils, and tools: Every bit of the buffalo would have been used for some application. Other details on the robe include some remaining fur on the hide and geometric shapes representative of eagle feathers.
He wears a red trade cloth breechclout at his waist.
As you can see, the warrior wears a dramatic “split horn” buffalo headdress accented with ermine fur. These headdresses are so named because the horns were actually split in half - if you saw it from the back, the horns would appear hollowed out.
Years ago, when I first saw a real split horn headdress in a museum, I was surprised to see that these horns were hollowed, with only one convex side used on the front of the war bonnet, instead of whole horns (full horns are enormous). My only references up until that point were photographs and older paintings. Seeing an example headdress in the museum gave me a fuller understanding of what this item actually looked like.
This realization underscores the importance of research for my work: I cannot readily depict a person in time without learning as much as possible before ever picking up a brush. You can see a similar headdress in my depiction of Chief Mato-Tope, c. 1820-30.