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  • Hunters of the Aspen Forest, Montana Blackfeet hunters painting, by James Ayers

Hunters of the Aspen Forest - Montana Blackfeet

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Title: Hunters of the Aspen Forest
Tribe: Montana Blackfeet
Size: 40" x 60"
Medium: Oil on canvas
Price: SOLD


About Hunters of the Aspen Forest

The frigid winter drags on in the Montana Rockies. Food is running low for the Blackfeet and this hunting party has been sent on the life-saving task of finding food. The men wear warm clothes to protect from the shearing wind and deadly temperature. They must squint their eyes, as the light reflected off the snow is powerful. These men need to be successful in their quest, not only for their own survival, but also for the survival of their families.

About the hunters

This scene is set in the Blackfeet homeland of what is now Montana or Alberta, Canada in the early 1800s. You can determine the date by the Kentucky longrifle carried by the lead rider, a weapon produced beginning in the 1700s.

The lead hunter wears a capote made with a Hudson's Bay point blanket. The points on the edge of the blanket were used to indicate its thickness. He carries with him a Kentucky longrifle, a muzzle-loading, rifled musket. This rifle had a very long range and while more accurate than its non-rifled predecessors, was not in all cases more accurate than a bow and arrow. The hunter, wisely, carries a quiver of arrows and a bow as a back up.

The middle rider clutches his quiver and bow, ready to shoot at the first sign of game. He wears a red Hudson Bay blanket over his shoulders and hide leggings. In his hair, he has eagle feathers.

The rider in the back carries with him a large spear. He is wrapped in elk hide for warmth and wears blue trade cloth leggings. His hair is in the classic Blackfeet top-knot style. He looks to the distance, perhaps he has noticed an animal.

About the composition

The shadows on the snow create a natural visual guide to compel the eye toward our main subjects. The drama is heightened by the strong vanishing point formed by the figures, ending behind the final rider.

My inspiration

Living in Colorado, I hike as much and as often as my painting schedule allows. One of my favorite hikes is through the aspen forests. The inspiration for this painting was an afternoon trek in late winter. The sun was casting long on the snow and the contrast had so much depth that I could easily imagine this dramatic natural backdrop to a hunting party of long ago.

About the Blackfeet

The Blackfeet once controlled an extensive part of the northeastern High Plains, from the upper Missouri River in what is now Montana to the North Saskatchewan River in modern-day Alberta.

Primary foodstuffs were bison and other game such as deer, sheep, and elk. They also incorporated wild plants into their diet when available. In warmer months, the Blackfoot would move camp to fresh hunting grounds if needed; in the winter, the bands tended to stay in one place. They were enemies of the Crow, Lakota, Flathead, Shoshone, and Kootenai.

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