Art of the American West
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Karl Bodmer (Swiss, 1809–1893),
Chan-Chä-Uiá-Te-Üinn, Lakota Sioux Woman , 1833
watercolor and graphite on paper, 17 1/8 × 11 7/8 in.
Gift of the Enron Art Foundation, 1986.49.246. Photograph © Bruce M. White, 2019
Faces from the Interior: The North American Portraits of Karl Bodmer, is the first Museum project to focus on Bodmer’s watercolor portraits of Indigenous people painted in 1833–34. Numerous Indigenous artists, scholars, and elders from communities that Karl Bodmer and Prince Maximilian visited contributed texts to the exhibition that examine the ongoing challenges and significances of these images of cultural encounter. The exhibition was organized by the Margre H. Durham Center for Western Studies, Joslyn Art Museum, in association with the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Gazing upon this ancestor is bittersweet for me. Chan-Chä-Uiá-Te-Üinn (Crow Nation Woman) is beautiful, and her loveliness is restated in her attire. The hide’s pattern—centuries old—existed well before this recorded moment. Though steeped in tradition, this robe also held elements unique to its owner, affirming her individuality. Longingly, I wish I could touch this robe, smell its smoky warmth, or hear the dress’s cones sing as Chan-Chä-Uiá-Te-Üinn walked along. I wish I could have had my own coming of age ceremony and received such a robe. But things change, and Indigenous people adapt and survive. Today, I would receive a quilt, not a robe, but I would still be wrapped in the strength, tradition, and hope of my ancestors.

Dakota Hoska
Oglála Lak?ota, Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee
Assistant Curator of Native Arts, Denver Art Museum

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