Karl Bodmer (Swiss, 1809–1893),
watercolor on paper, 5/8 x 10 3/8 in.; 19.37 x 26.35 cm
Gift of Enron Art Foundation, 1986.49.379
This Assiniboin camp was observed by Bodmer in 1833 in western North Dakota. Bodmer’s scientist-patron, Prince Maximilian, described the tipi in the foreground as the dwelling of a chief, distinguished from the others by the large bear figures painted on its sides. The bear was a symbol of strong supernatural power, a medicine sought after to insure success in battle or for aid in treating the sick. Only those who had obtained this power could display the bear’s image. Bodmer’s work is acclaimed as the finest visual record of the upper Missouri River frontier.