Art of the American West
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Karl Bodmer (Swiss, 1809–1893),
Mandan Woman , 1834
watercolor and graphite on paper, 12 9/16 × 10 in.
Gift of the Enron Art Foundation, 1986.49.276. 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.

Nueta (Mandan) women sustain community life in the Heart of the World. Nueta women built our fortified towns and were brilliant riverine agriculturists, producing such an abundance they co-established a powerful matrilineal nation and continental trade center. My Nueta grandmother Inez (Prairie Chicken Clan from Midi Dohe [Blue Waters]) was born the year the Mandan became US citizens (1924). Before bridges, Inez’s sister swam a horse across the Missouri River to help when Inez was pregnant with my father, something that became impossible to do after the US government’s coercive, purposeful, and devastating flooding of our reservation. Today, Inez’s daughters, my aunties, are strong voices protecting our remaining ancestral lands through the Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights (POWER).

Aaron Bird Bear
Mandan Hidatsa and Diné; citizen of Three Affiliated Tribes
Tribal Relations Director, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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