Art of the American West
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Karl Bodmer (Swiss, 1809–1893),
Hó-Ta-Mä, Ponca Man , 1833
watercolor and graphite on paper, 10 7/8 x 8 3/4 in.
Gift of the Enron Art Foundation, 1986.49.242. 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.

The name Hó-Ta-Mä (pronounced “WHO Ta Mon”) implies that this man “goes about bellowing.” The act of bellowing or hollering is still used today, mostly by older men, as a way of acknowledging each other from a distance. Sometimes it accompanies a song as a way of rejoicing in the moment. When I was young, I would use this form of hollering to greet older Indian men and they would respond accordingly with a sound of their own. In time, you knew immediately who someone was by his bellowing. I can only imagine it was the same for our ancestors. Perhaps on a foggy day, when seeing someone off in the distance, you could recognize him as a friend simply by his holler.

Dwight Howe
Cultural Guidance Counselor
Omaha Tribe of Nebraska

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