The Tragic Prescience Of George Catlin

The artist knew that the Native Americans could not maintain their culture in the face of the white man's expansion across the continent.

“Oh! how I love a people who don’t live for the love of money,” George Catlin once exclaimed. The artist never ceased to marvel at the guileless, trusting simplicity and unselfish generosity of his Indian hosts, who welcomed him without reservation into their homes, entertained him as best they could, and who, he explained, “are honest without laws, who have no jails and no poor-house.” Read more »

O-Kee-Pa -- American Heritage Book Selection

In words and pictures, George Catlin recorded the secret ceremony, a blend of mysticism and horrific cruelty, by which the Mandans initiated their braves and conjured the life-sustaining buffalo.

The degree of physical torture to which some American Indians voluntarily submitted as part of their religious tradition appeared cruel and sanguinary to the few white men who witnessed such rites. An outstanding example, unknown to most readers of history because of the white man’s general neglect of Indian customs and folklore, was the O-kee-pa ceremony by which the Mandans initiated fledgling warriors and summoned the all-important buffaloes.


Death came early and violently to Joe Chadwick. He was barely twenty-four when he died at Goliad, Texas, in 1836. Only a few weeks before, he had sent his mother a portrait of himself just painted by his good friend George Catlin, the great artist of the early American West. Catlin was pleased with the picture, which he made in St. Louis late in 1835.Read more »