From 1600 – 1850, artists in England and, later, in North America depicted distinguished Native American tribal leaders, diplomats and warriors to commemorate their significance. Examples include Pocahontas (1617), and nineteenth century Lakota leaders Sitting Bull and Red Cloud.
For many years, these portraits were not properly understood, reducing many of the sitters to simple exemplars of the ‘noble savage’ cliché. In fact, these works are far more interesting once the sitters’ historical situation and agency are restored to them.
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A lecture by Stephanie Pratt recorded on 28 March 2023 at Barnard's Inn Hall, London.
The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website: https://www.gresham.ac.uk/watch-now/american-portraits
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Speaker 1 (00:05):
I am speaking to you this evening on a topic that should be much better known than it is even among my friends and acquaintances in the uk. I find that few people know much or indeed anything about the historically significant indigenous Americans who visited this country during the colonization of North America. Yet from the late 16th century and over the next 300 years, numerous members of different tribal communities came to Britain, sometimes staying only a matter of weeks, sometimes much longer. Many of them were important personages and were recognized as such at the time. The very fact that portraits were made of them testifies to that fact. From this diverse record, I have chosen to concentrate my talk on four instances. Three of them took place in England, but as regards sitting bull, although he visited Britain, his photographic portrait was made in the United States.
Speaker 1 (01:19):
Too many historical indigenous American leaders are known only by reputation, principally via accounts written by those who had come to settle the country and eventually to displace them from their ancestral lands. So visual testimony of this sort is something to be cherished, allowing the modern spectator to put a face to a name. In that regard, it would be nice to think that contemplating each individual's portrait would allow us to understand something about their lives and achievements. But this is no straightforward business and part of what I want to do this evening is to pose some questions and share with you some of the difficulties their portraits raise. Let's start with the questions. When a European sitter commissions a portrait, he or she knows what that business entails, as does the artist. They essentially work together to produce the work. But what happens when realistic portraiture of this sort is removed from the sitter's experience, which is the case for at least some of the individuals I shall discuss. To borrow a term widely used in analyzing the colonial encounter, we might envisage these portraits as contact zones where two radically different cultures confront one another.
Speaker 1 (02:56):
What plays out in a contact zone is often a matter of negotiation, and the portraiture of indigenous American sitters was potentially open to negotiation. Two, from the sitters point of view, what agency did they have within the European artistic mill and how did this compare with their own self-representation? Are there any indications of the sitter's indigenous sensibility finding expression within the strictures of the portrait format with respect to the artist, what traditions conditioned their approach? And were they flexible enough to incorporate a sitter wholly outside their normal experience? Did the artist attempt to engage with the particularities of the sitter's culture using dress and pose as markers of difference or did they lack the information that will allow them to do this? And finally, from the consumer's point of view, who were these portraits made for? How many people would've seen them? What purpose did they serve? I believe that these questions are essential if we are to make any serious attempt to engage with these images. A very welcome research effort has done much to establish a more secure understanding of the biographies of these sitters. And I'm just gonna move back so that you can look,
Speaker 1 (04:27):
Um, and their place in their original indigenous community, their activities as representatives of it overseas and the reactions of those who met them in London and elsewhere. This information is of course vital if we are to attempt to come to terms with these sitters as people, as historical agents, and ultimately as ambassadors of a way of life that was, and perhaps still is poorly understood. But my purpose this evening is to make another claim and a necessary one, which is that the routine inclusion of these portraits in accounts of indigenous leaders has far too often taken them at face value. If you'll pardon the pun, studies that offer the most painstaking textual analyses of historical documents and have made them com have made compelling use of indigenous oral testimony, often have much less to say about the surviving visual representations of their subjects painted or in grade portraits or in sitting bull's. Case photographs are deployed in the best instances as sources of empirical information, contributing visual evidence to supplement what is known from verbal sources. In the worst instances, they simply appear as illustrations as though their depiction is unproblematic or self-evident. But as I, as I've just indicated, the portraits made of these sitters are anything but self-evident as soon as one begins to probe them. The central problem of what portrait actually is moves to center stage
Speaker 1 (06:16):
Portraiture is a kind of artifice, a cultural practice working within a set of traditions and bound to historically specific expectations regarding what constitutes a likeness or rather what purpose, what purpose a likeness should serve. And these traditions and expectations are themselves differently interpreted in different periods. So for all these reasons in my talk this evening, my aim is to examine these portraits not so much as documentary statements, using them as portals to the true identity of each sitter, but but more as somewhat problematic evidence from artists witnesses who inevitably affected a compromise between their customary art practice and the suit's remoteness from it. This is not, I should emphasize, to discredit these portraits as holy suspect or unreliable. As we shall see. They do provide some sort of evidence, evidence of the sitter to a limited extent, but much more obviously evidence of the encounter between the sitter and the artist and that, and it is that encounter which fascinates me. So because their portraits bear witness to distinctive historical episodes, I'll present my four sitters in chronological chronological order. The first of them is Pocahontas. She was born in 1596 or 1597 in the coastal Tidewater area of what is now the state of Virginia. Her father Han Seneca, was Supreme chief O Pow po Hatton from the Pon nation, a member of the Po Hatton people speaking an Algonquin dialect. Pocahontas was a childhood name meaning little pest or ma mischievous one one, and was often used to identify her
Speaker 1 (08:22):
In the contemporary English accounts of the nearby Jamestown colony. She carried other names, one of them being Mato X, which you can see in the script below her portrait, it's meaning is uncertain. It may possibly come from the Algonquin term. Maac meaning white bird. Pocahontas became an intermediary between her father and the English in Jamestown. But in 1613, she was abducted by Captain Samuel Arle and taken to Jamestown as the Colonies property during her captivity. She was Christianized and given the name Rebecca marrying the English tobacco planter, John Rolf in 1615, she traveled to England the following year with her husband and child, accompanied by an entourage of important p Hatton family members and advisors. It has been suggested that the visit allowed the Virginia company needing new investors to tout their success by using her assimilation into Christianity as an advertisement for their endeavors in London, she became a celebrity and was received at court and attended a mask at White Hole Palace. She was due to return home in 1617, but succumbeded to an unnamed illness while on board ship and died on the 21st of March, 1617. Before the voyage had commenced, she was buried in the Chancellor of St. George's Church. Grapes End.
Speaker 1 (10:01):
So the Prince Inscription makes no reference to her name Pocahontas. Instead in the Oval Band surrounding the portrait, her identity is given in Latin, which can be rendered as quote Mat X, also known as Rebecca Daughter of the Powerful Prince Manhattan of the Empire Virginia. The English script below the image also acknowledges her name Mat X, but asserts her new identity, her name Rebecca, her conversion to Christianity and her baptism and marriage to Joan Rolf. So what you see is a formal portrait image in keeping with contemporary styles of engraved portraiture. The expatriate Dutch artist who made it some en van de pass belonged to a distinguished family of engravers and brought new standards of engraving to England. As you can see, the text refers to her as quote daughter to the mighty Prince Po Hatton Emperor, which explains the prince inclusion in the suite of Portrait Prince by depas of distinguished sitters, nobility and royalty. It was published by Compton Holland, one of the most important print publishers of the day. So looking at the portrait, is it reasonable to suppose that Pocahontas wished to assert anything of her indigenous identity when she sat to Depas
Speaker 1 (11:32):
Mediated as her image is by European artistic conventions? What avenues were open to her should she have wished to do so? As Rebecca Rolf, she dressed appropriately in contemporary fashion. She is showing, she is shown wearing up to the minute fashionable attire, including a starched lace collar rich textured undergarments, a short sleeve brocaded over gown, and a tall beaver felt hat adorned with a displayed bird feather. She also holds a fan of three ostrich feathers and displays a pearl earring in her exposed left ear did those garments entirely eclipse her original identity?
Speaker 1 (12:20):
In addition, compared to the other prints in this series such as that of the Countess of Somerset lady Francis Howard, she see to the right of Ponta Pocahontas skin is rendered in a darker tone. She's given wide set eyes, a wider set eyes and a broader nose, more intriguingly. The shading on Pocahontas Chin is positioned in the same place as the distinctive vertical lines of facial tattoos seen on the chin in earlier drawings of Algonquin women made by the English artist John White, who in the 1580s had been appointed to record the local inhabitants near the Roanoke colony in today's North Carolina. So that's the comparison I'm making, and you see the distinctive three marks on the chin and the way that Pocahontas Chin is sort of picked out, but especially in the engraving after John White by um, adore Debris and Family, the engravers emphasis on the chin area in his female on the left is almost directly translated into Pocahontas portrait image by Depas as one Jamestown colonial witness noted in 1612. The women have their arms, breasts, thighs, shoulders, and faces. Cunningly embroidered with diverse works for pouncing or searing their skin with a kind of instrument heated in the fire.
Speaker 1 (14:03):
It is fascinating to speculate whether Pocahontas had similar markings which were deliberately modified or masked in her portrait to accommodate her appearance to European standards. In an ambiguous comment in February, 1617, the news monger John Chamberlain wrote about this engraving to Sir Dudley Carlton, the English ambassador at The Hague, and this is about the picture of Pocahontas. Here is a fine picture of no Fair Lady. What he meant by this is open to conjecture. The surface meaning of fair is a concern with social rank. Her high borne appearance being at odds with her origin and especially in the context of the precarious finances of the Virginia company. For he goes on to say, yet with her tricking up in high style and titles, you might think her and her worshipful husband to be somebody. If you do not know that the poor company of Virginia out of their poverty are feigned to allow her four pound a week for her maintenance, but perhaps Chamberlain also intended to draw attention to her facial features, distinguishing her from the fair skin of European sitters and thereby disqualifying her from the kind of respect a high ranking English woman would expect. Command, certainly looking at de passes engraving Pocahontas identity is very much between worlds.
Speaker 1 (15:46):
My next example comes from roughly 100 years later at a time when colonial expansion had brought English territories into competition with other European nations, resulting in the conflict of 1702 to 1713, known as Queen Anne's war, like their rivals, the English government was desirous of making treaties with indigenous communities and seeking their cooperation variously in trade, in neutrality, or in military aid for their part. Indigenous communities reacting to the cultural and economic disturbance set in train by European commercial and military activities sought to preserve their traditional lands and way of life from widespread disruption. This is the background which explains the visit of the so-called Indian Kings to London in the spring of 1710. And this is the pictures you see here are the are they delegates. This embassy to Britain involved four indigenous men, one Mahican dip diplomat named Iko, and three Mohawk ambassadors, sga, ti Hak, and Rigo. The British knew them by more familiar names, respectively. Nicholas Brant Hendrick and John, which had been given them on their baptism into the Christian faith. Almost certainly Brant Hendrick and John who were baptized in the Dutch reform Church would've spoken some Dutch, and as the English only gained control of the colony of New Netherland in 1694, they may not have spoken much English.
Speaker 1 (17:37):
The 1710 mission was a combined enterprise supported by British interests in North America and agreed to by the Hoone Iqua Conf Confederacy, the most powerful and long lived alliance in the northeast of the continent at this time. In 1710, it comprised five nations, the Mohawk, Onida, Onaga, Kaga, and Seneca. The Hoho controlled a vast sway of land near the British colonial outposts in the upper Hudson River Valley. Britain needed their support to invade French Canada, and after a failed attempt the year before the 1710 delegation was formed, the delegates were treated with deference and respect due to vis respect due visiting dignitaries and were called kings, lacking the terms to describe their precise status and position in indigenous society. They were given two separate audiences with Queen Anne during their stay and met many of the officials concerned with British overseas trade. They were shown the most important places in London, the Tower of London, St.
Speaker 1 (18:54):
Paul's, the Guild Hall, the Royal Exchange, the Banqueting House, St Chapel at White Hall, Greenwich Hospital, Woolwich Arsenal, and a review of the guards in Hyde Park. They also attended a performance of Macbeth in the Queen's theater. Haymarket, it's a nice coincidence for this evening's talk that one stop on their tour was to visit Gresham College, then situated in Sir Thomas Gresham's old house in Bishops gate and already soundly established as a preeminent place of learning. In short, the delegation was shown the best examples of English England's wealth, power, and wisdom. Their introduction to London inevitably, inevitably made them something of a public spectacle. And their near celebrity status was evidenced in the request by members of the Macbeth audience that the Ho Sian mahican men be seated on stage instead of in the stalls so that everyone could see them properly. <laugh> Queen Anne commissioned three separate artists to take portraits from life of each of these delegates. These were John or Jan Burres from the distinguished family of Dutched artists living in in England, which I've shown you, who made the full length oil portraits of each of them.
Speaker 1 (20:16):
Then John Faber Sr. Who made Meins beautiful Meins <laugh> and Bernard lands who painted miniatures of them. And these are in the British museum and they're stunning on Vellum how vares portraits are the most ambitious and I will concentrate on them. Unlike the overlay of English dress on the figure of Pocahontas here, the delegates are able to retain many aspects of their culture. We know that the Queen directed the dressers of the playhouse to make them appropriate clothing, including a scarlet and grain cloth mantle edged with gold thrown over all their other garments as Vare shows. Contemporary reports also state that when in public or meeting Queen Anne, the delegates wore English style clothing in black, as shown in Verell's portrait of Hendrick on the far right, wearing a black frock coat button down the front and warm with black breaches, silk stockings and leather shoes with brass buckles.
Speaker 1 (21:26):
The the fact that he is referred to as emperor of the six nations in a print published after Farrell's portrait and holds in his right hand a belt of wampum used by the ho Naone to signify treaty making shows that the English at least saw him as the leader of the delegation, which Pharrell's deferential treatment probably underlines three of the delegates wear moccasins. And all of them have a decorated band or tie, which is probably a burden strap at their waist, which is stitched with pigmented moose hair embroidery. In a repeated pattern, perhaps the most obvious sign of indigenous culture is their body adornment the Mohawk. The Mohawk brand's linen shirt, for example, is opened widely to reveal the elaborate and extensive tattooing on his chest that extends up to his neck and onto his face. A document of the time contains a signature of a Seneca chief entailed in the elaborate tattooing on his face and chest, which implies that the London Delegate's exhibition of their body adornment was in effect a demonstration of their personal identity and status.
Speaker 1 (22:48):
The final indigenous element, which you may have noticed from the portraits, includes an animal at their feet or just behind them, referring to their membership in either the wolf turtle or bear clans and constituent parts of the ho Nasho system of government. This association is supported in a contemporary document held in the British Library, where next to their Christian names, the delegates placed an animal motif signifying their clan status. So again, that kind of equivalence of identity. This is me, the animal, which is cool, I think <laugh> anyway. Yet all the indigenous details, Andre's portraits are contained within a thoroughly European format. Brant, for example, is standing in an elegant and relaxed pose, very much in keeping with the style of aristocratic portrait of this period as seen, for example, in Michael Wright's Lord Mongo Murray portrait of 1683. Both men are shown holding the end of their muskets as if just stopping to pose briefly while still engaging in their outdoor hunting activities.
Speaker 1 (24:04):
It if Pharrell's had rights figure of a Scottish Laird as a possible model for his portrait, it raises interesting questions. Was this simply a useful stock pose to employ for a new sitter who represented a people entirely outside Farrell's experience, or did he intend, as some have supposed to suggest a rough equivalence between the woodland space life of an indigenous king and someone whose Scott's ancestry reached back to perhaps a more early antique simplified lifestyle. Perhaps some who sawd re's portraits with linen shirts warns tunics might have been put in mind of the garb of classical warriors. Whatever the associations that might have been raised Burrell's approach managed to retain some elements of indigenous identity. Okay, we'll move to the next figure. The next figure I wish to discuss was a highly important Cherokee ambassador oco. The embassy he headed came to London in 1762 to meet King George the third, and to follow up on a treaty between England's Virginia colony and the Cherokees, which marks the conclusion of the Anglo Cherokee War of 1758 to 61. That conflict was part of the so-called French and Indian War 1754 to 63 referring to the North American Theater of the seven years war between France and England. The Anglo Cherokee War had come about when the expansion of colonial settlements coupled with British and French military rivalry, pushed the Cherokees, some of whom had formally been allies to the British to respond. After early reverses, the British crushed Cherokee resistance in a brutal campaign. It was now important for both the Cherokee nation and the British to restore their former alliance.
Speaker 1 (26:13):
They were not the first Cherokees to have visited London In 1730s, seven Cherokee delegates accompanied a Scott's eccentric named Sir Alexander Cumming, who spoke some Cherokee on a mission to enter into articles of friendship and commerce. With Georgia's second, their arrival and activities were followed closely in the London newspapers and journals, and a contemporary witness recorded their meeting with the king, quote, the Indian king had a scarlet jacket on, but all the rest were naked except an apron about their middles. And a horse's tail hung down behind their faces, shoulders, et cetera, were painted and spotted with red, blue, and green, et cetera. They had bows in their hands and painted feathers on their heads.
Speaker 1 (27:07):
However, that demonstration of indigenous clothing may have been exceptional for each delegate was probably given English style clothing to wear at court, as had been the case with the 1710 Hoho delegation, an artist called Markham made their group portrait known only in this engraving by Isaac Baer, the as the inscription, again uses the terminology of king princes and chiefs to explain the status of these visiting dignitaries. Their successors in 1762 were similarly referred to as the Cherokee King and his chiefs referring respectively to Aaco, meaning bighead and the other Cherokee leaders with him, Atua, wood Pigeon and Kuga Doga standing Turkey AAO came from the over hill Cherokee villages near the Holston River in what is present day eastern Tennessee. Among his many names and titles was that of Head Warrior or Gusta. And he may have belonged to the largest of the seven clans of the Cherokee, the Wolf, or an Waa clan, which was the source of many warriors.
Speaker 1 (28:23):
Of note before him, he was also known as UTI or uti, meaning Mankiller, another warrior designation. A London journalist, provides valuable details of the delegation's appearance and their treatment. On arrival, quote, three Cherokee Indian chiefs arrived in London from South Carolina. They are well-made men near six feet high were dressed in their own country habit with only a shirt, trousers, and a mantle around them. Their faces are painted a copper color and their heads adorned with shells, feathers, earrings, and other trifling ornaments. They, neither of them can speak to be understood and very unfortunately lost their interpreter in the passage a house is taken for them in Suffolk Street, and clothes have been given them in the English fashion without an interpreter, the embassy was necessarily limited. Nevertheless, an early July ako and his fellow delegates were given an audience with King George the third. At that meeting, the king gave each man a silver gorge signifying their loyalty to him and the Crown's forces two members of the embassy had their portraits painted Joshua Reynolds, his first sitting with Aaco in early June, describing him in his pocketbook as King of the Cherokees.
Speaker 1 (29:49):
Further sittings must have followed in July for his portrait, includes the silver gorge around his neck, as well as what is probably a peace metal hanging below. However, whereas Vares could probably have spoken Dutch with his sitters in 1710, Reynolds had no such advantage and would've found it difficult to do more than respond to his subject's appearance and the newspaper reports of his reputation. One of these reports appeared in the court magazine in July and includes a description of Aaco. He is of good size, much better made than the rest of the Indians. He strongly resembles the Marques of Granby, and I assure you in many instances, gives masterly strokes of great courage, a sense of true honor and much generosity of mind. This great warrior I am now mentioning most certainly makes an appearance that strikes one with a horror.
Speaker 1 (30:49):
This comparison with John Manors, the mark was of grand B, was obviously designed to help readers picture the Cherokee by using an example closer to home. And in purely visual terms, we can make the comparison ourselves for Reynolds would paint grand B in the following years. But the comparison is more than simply visual for Grand B was the overall commander of British troops in the European theater for of the seven years war. And the implication of the remark is to suggest that Aaco shared ground beef's Marshall prowess and success in battle. And I'm inclined to think that the idea bighead aaco and that large commanding picture is, well, you can see it. <laugh> Reynold's portrait presents steno as a highly dignified Ry, confident in his role and wearing what may be a decorated finger woven belt around his shoulders here and holding a pipe tomahawk. And this is an intercultural device, perhaps gifted or exchanged as a trade item and used in negotiation to affect peace. But it's, it's kind of odd when you think about it's a pipe tomahawk peace and war. It's, um, complicated item there. So, um, the dark skin tone plucked or shaved scalp and remaining scalp block of hair or top knot are important indigenous features,
Speaker 1 (32:44):
As is Austin's highly prominent left ear, which would've been deliberately slit and stretched for attaching personal items of adornment, silver earrings, et cetera. There is little trace of the horror the court magazine has suggested here. Instead, the overall result is to give Anaco an heir of distinction, self-possession and power. At the same time, the portrait painter Francis Parsons, made a striking image of Ana's fellow delegate Kuga Doga. This too is an effective presentation, but in contrast to Reynolds emphasis on peace, Parsons presents a loyal ally brandishing his weapon with clear threat. This portrait, unlike Reynolds, was engraved as with previous delegations. The Cherokees were shown around London, visited the theater and pleasure grounds, and inevitably became something of a pub public spectacle. Other less careful images circulated two as, for example, wax work figures exhibited at Mrs. Simons Royal Waxworks Fleet Street of the Cherokee King with his two chiefs in their country dress and Hamans, and also this engraved portrait by George Bickham. The engraving is a good demonstration of the confused and confusing reception. Given these important diplomatic figures here, each man is given a name that looks like it was derived from one or other of ASCO's honorific titles.
Speaker 1 (34:32):
The Cherokees were given in grave versions of their portraits to take home with them a practice which had now become customary. They seem to appreciate this as expressed by Kuga when he stated that he was pleased that his portrait, that he had a portrait as his friends would now have something to remember him by when he had gone to fight the French. Okay, so we go to our final figure [inaudible] si sitting Buffalo bull. The final figure I want to discuss tonight is perhaps the most recognized name of all the indigenous people I have mentioned previously. It is sitting or more properly translated from La Lakota name Taka sitting Buffalo bull born 1831 died 1890. His early life is better known in a factual sense than all the others I have talked about tonight. But that does not make it any easier to reach his indigenous self or to intuit how he might have felt about having his portrait taken. At age 14, he distinguished himself in a horse rating party by riding up and counting coup or touching an enemy crow man and riding away. This was considered a feat of great bravery and skill, and his father gave the young man his own name, Tonka ak in to honor it. He would become a distinguished chief of the hunk papa, one of the seven bands of the Western Sioux, or as we now refer to them, the Lakota, their own name for themselves, meaning the friends or allies.
Speaker 1 (36:26):
Taka, as I shall call him from now on, became one of the most important resistance fighters against us encroachment on Lakota lands in the last half of the 19th century. He is best known for his part in the defeat of the US Army's seventh cavalry led by General George Custer on the 25th of June, 1876 at the battle of the little big horn, as the Americans call it, but the battle of the greasy grass by the Lakota. In present day southeastern Montana
Speaker 1 (37:03):
Tatanka Ike had organized the community's resisting and forced moves onto the reservations. And although he personally took no part in the battle, the notoriety surrounding this so-called massacre was seen as grounds for retaliation against him, his followers, and all the Lakota people who stood up to the US government. As a result, he retreated into Canada by 6 18 77, 18 77. However, with little bison left on which to survive and enduring near starvation conditions. He and his remaining followers returned to the US in 1881, coming to Fort Buford to surrender, he would only Li Li he would only live another seven years. He was transferred from Fort Buford to Fort Randall at the beginning of September, 1881. And this photograph was taken shortly afterwards in early 1882. It seems that three local men commissioned William R. Cross, a photographer from Nebraska to create a series of photographs centering on the Lakota leader that could be marketed to a national audience.
Speaker 1 (38:17):
It is designed in a postcard or cart de zi format, showing the seated leader framed in an oval and below this in bold type taka, aka a misspelling of his Lakota name, followed by his autograph, written in cursive script as sitting bull below. This is printed, the above is a true photo and autograph of sitting bull, the Sioux chief at the Custer Massacre. A sentence which reflects how distortion and mythmaking were already affecting his identity and biography. The image shows him seated, seated facing forward and holding across his lap a wooden stamped pipe used by the Lakota in ceremonies to send prayers via tobacco smoke. The pipe is probably not his own, but given him to hold by the photographer, his hands seemed to be gesturing to the pipe itself. Going to this with one of his first fingers extended across the pipe stand and the other seemingly pointing towards the decorated pipe bag draped across his lap. Whether or not it was the photographer who asked him to arrange his hands this way, they draw attention to themselves. Lying across his lap is a war club, which is hard to detect in the digital scans of the image, but you can just see that sort of very white form as a club.
Speaker 1 (39:49):
Although this photograph of a leader who has succumbed to the United States colonial control and Id ideology of manifest destiny, the image is arguably not one of subjugation. The steady gaze and air of command are grounds to see an assertion of Tonka Ayo TA's identity within this format. Even a measure of resistance, even though Tonka Otake was frequently photographed in the 1880s, we do not know what he felt about photography as a way of representing a person. His sense of self may perhaps be better understood if we look at indigenous pictorial writing, which has been used historically by the Lakota and other Plains Warrior societies to tell narratives of an individual's or group's accomplishments in a visually written form. Originally these narratives of battles and horse captures were shown on, on the hides, covering tepees or even earlier in rock art forms. By the time of Tatanka Ayos maturity, there were fewer animal hides on which to make such recordings.
Speaker 1 (41:00):
Many turned to canvas to make these drawings, but when Cheyenne Kawa and Comanche participants in the Red River or Buffalo War in 1874 were made prisoners of war by the US Army, they were given ledger books and writing coloring implements by Captain Richard H. Pratt, no relation to help their education. Some of the warriors begin to make a type of pictographic account of their war deeds on ledger paper. This practice spread and has now become a recognized indigenous art form known as ledger drawings. Fortuitously a set of 55 drawings on the backs of unbound papers, long thought to be copies of drawings made by Tatanka of his own and his adopted brothers warrior. Your achievements was purchased by an army surgeon named Dr. James Kimball. While he was stationed at Fort Buford in 1867 to 1870, the drawings were shown to TA Tonka Aota when he was incarcerated at Fort Randall, which is close by.
Speaker 1 (42:11):
At about the time that this photograph that the photograph I showed you would've been taken by cross, he identified them as depictions of his and his adopted brother Jumping Bulls accomplishments, but was only specific about two of them. And this is one. While being held at Fort Randall from 1881 to 83, he was able to make another set of drawings by his own hand on ledger paper where he depicted his choice of important warrior accomplishments. In many of the examples from the Fort Beauford drawings, there is a named glyph of a seated buffalo, which you can see here attached by a thin dark line to a Lakota warrior who is Tatanka Ayo and must have identified himself from that. If we think back to the four indigenous men of the Hoen Asho embassy of 1710, each of whom wrote their signature both in cursive writing but also depict depicting the basic shape of their animal clan symbol on official documents, another method of portraiture emerges.
Speaker 1 (43:20):
It is to my mind an entirely indigenous way of thinking about oneself, one's signature and how one might be represented in an artistic sense unexpectedly. Perhaps when we turn to the Fort Randall set of drawings made by his own hand. Tonka Ata does not use the name glyph, but instead writes his name in cursive as sitting bull to identify who is being seen in these images. Although his name gifted, gifted by his father was highly significant to who he was and was part of the way he might have imaged himself his choice of a cursive mode to provide I identification of himself points rather to him making these drawings for sale and or collection. But despite these differences, the image making in both sets of ledger drawings also points to a combined shared sense of the man Tatanka Ayo known for his exploits rather than his appearance, in which case the dignity of his pose and the somewhat stern gaze that seems evident in all the photographs taken of him could be explained as a disdain for the whole activity of portrait photography, which could at best only copy appearance. Okay, so I'm gonna go back to the slides at the beginning and to just recap on some of those questions,
Speaker 1 (44:49):
Ice, I started this evening's talk by characterizing the portrait of indigenous Americans as a cultural contact zone where European artists, or in the last case instance I showed an American photographer, were faced with the problem of producing a satisfactory representation of their subject. I asked whether the sitter would find any expression of their indigenous sensibility or their customary self-identification in a form of depiction that had developed completely outside their own traditions. I also asked whether the makers of these images had sufficient information to guide their approach. And finally I asked about the purpose that prompted these portraits in the first place and what the public may have made of them. As I hope my presentation has shown, we have some documentation that helps us begin to answer these questions, but not enough has survived to provide a definitive account. We have to work with what little is available and draw what conclusions we can. Bearing that in mind, let me briefly summarize some answers to those questions, taking them in reverse order with respect to the purpose of these portraits, then all the sitters I chose were celebrities. And even if the portrait was not specially commissioned, the contemporary renowned of its subject would certainly have attracted public interest in a representation of the individual or the group.
Speaker 1 (46:24):
Second, did the portrait makers have sufficient information to guide them apart from the Cherokee visit in 1762, which was bedeviled by language difficulties. Some dialogue with the sitters would've been possible, but even if we assume, assume some verbal exchange took place, it is doubtful that the artist or in to taka AKA's case, the photographer, would've been able to acquire anything beyond the most superficial understanding of his subject's background and culture. As for the third question, the sitter's perspective, they clearly accommodated themselves to the business of having their likeness taken and were aware of its significance to their hosts, but how they ranked it in comparison with their customary self-identification cannot be ascertained. However, given what we know about indigenous art practices, I think it would be reasonable to assume that they found this alien approach to representation, was unable to capture their true identity or cultural belonging.
Speaker 1 (47:29):
These portraits therefore offer only offer a partial truth, which is to say that the representation they provide stops at the level of depicting facial features, body adornment, clothing and accoutrements. Now clearly the business of taking a likeness and traditional European portraiture is founded on the same partial basis, concentrating on the visual characteristics that make each sitter unique. And while some portraits may also provide an element of psychological insight, we tend to single these out as supreme examples of the genre and distinguish them, distinguish them from all those likenesses that merely document appearances. So you might say the fact that these portraits of indigenous Americans are also perhaps inevitably concerned with appearance rather than substance, simply puts them on a par with the more documentary portraits of European sitters. That seems a reasonable conclusion, but it forgets one crucial thing, which is that the representation of indigenous Americans had consequences at a time of colonial expansion.
Speaker 1 (48:34):
Each of these sitters, whether or not they were actually negotiating, would've been regarded in some sense as emissaries of their people. In that respect, each portrait was more than an individual likeness. It condensed into one image. How incoming culture first centered on London then on Washington DC regarded those who were already living in North America, were they tractable people, compliant with European norms, Pocahontas, useful military allies, the ho nasho and Cherokee delegations or leaders who surrender, vindicated the manifest destiny of the United States, taka ata, these projected identities at a generic quality to what should be a portrait of an individual. So when my title talks of Native American portraits, I mean you to understand them not so much as exact representations, but as hybrid images where the sitter's identity coming from one culture is held in tension with the expectations of the artist coming from another, acknowledging that tension is, in my view, the most useful route towards understanding these portraits. Thanks. Thank
Speaker 2 (49:57):
You so much Dr. Pratt for the fascinating lecture. I've got a couple of questions from online before we go to the audience in the room. Um, the first question is, um, did all in, uh, indigenous Americans, um, have tattoos in this, um, period of time or only some? And do we know about the meanings of those tattoos?
Speaker 1 (50:20):
I, I, I can't speak to meaning of tattoos because they are very personal identifications and some scholars have had a, a go at trying to look at Brant and understand some of those. But not everybody had tattoos. And from what I've read recently, it seems as though women held the tattoos generally more than men from my reading. But it's really hard to generalize with indigenous cultures. As you know, there are 574 differing cultures in in the Americas and they're very distinctive with distinctive practices. So I don't know if that answers
Speaker 2 (51:03):
Yes, Stephanie? Um, there's a question here about sources on the best general introduction into, um, uh, indigenous American culture.
Speaker 1 (51:13):
Oh, yeah. Um, there is an, an amazing book, but it's more about indigenous histories. Um, and the name of the scholar is Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz. I think Indi Indigenous People's History of America. I think it's a, it's an excellent book from the indigenous perspective. Um, indigenous books on indigenous culture are, are just, there's masses and I think if you're very interested in a particular group and a, that is an easier way to, rather than, I think trying to take on board the whole <laugh> is a lot. I mean, it's taken me 30 years to try to understand even these few people that I've looked at. Good
Speaker 3 (52:01):
Evening and thank you very much for the talk. Could you please expand more on the purpose of these portraits? Because you mentioned that these were celebrities and there was a certain public interest in these figures, but was it the, were the people producing, um, these portraits interested in simply documenting who these people were? Was it more, uh, propaganda pushing a certain agenda, say with the Virginia company or perhaps sensation just to sell whatever copies of, of, of whatever these were appearing in? Just could you expand on on that a bit more please?
Speaker 1 (52:33):
Sure, yeah, that's a really great question because, um, one of, one of the puzzles for me is, is the Reynolds portrait, which seems to have no one having commissioned it, which suggests to me that maybe Reynolds would've thought this was kind of a, you know, a chance to maybe make his name if he was painting the King of the Cherokees, which is what he wrote in his pocket book. But he never exhibited this picture and it stayed in his, I guess, in his collection and eventually wound up in the Thomas Gil crease collection in Oklahoma, cuz Thomas Gil Gil Crease was, had, had oil money and was able to build a, a magnificent collection, but it dropped out of the Reynolds, um, you know, works list completely and only recently came back in. So you can see that that was a one-off for Reynolds in terms of indigenous Americans.
Speaker 1 (53:27):
He did paint May and other people, um, the Vares was commissioned by the Queen. So, um, and Vares family are really interesting because he had an uncle or a brother called Willam Burress who also painted a delegation of Georgia people who came over from the creek or Muskogee people. So their family was sort of, it's almost like the Dutch artists had a way of approaching, which is very distinctive. And and I just feel that in the, in those portraits. Um, yeah, and I think by the time of Tonka Otake that is celebrity and, and almost, uh, notoriety like infamous, you know, man who attacked the US government. And so his image was able to be sold. And of course he did join the Buffalo Bill Wild West for one year and came to to England, but I couldn't really find out much about what, what he did <laugh>. So
Speaker 4 (54:29):
The, the Indian question, uh, also applies to Canada. Now, the Canadian in, uh, indigenous people, are they distinctly different to the ones which were in the United States?
Speaker 1 (54:45):
It's a very good question, and essentially I'm gonna answer it by saying that indigenous people look at the whole continent as as one. So when they talk about that dividing line between Canada and they call it the medicine line, that it's, it's a powerful line, which they didn't understand because it went right across their territory. It split split the Blackfoot nation in half, and they're called Blackfoot in Canada and Black Feet in North America. And of course they have their own names for themselves, but, uh, the Mohawk and, and Ho Naone also expanded across that, into those areas. So there is a lot of brotherhood and sisterhood and, and relationship across that so-called Medicine Line, you know, where my father used to tell me our lands extended all the way into Canada. And that's, that's how we look at it. So we are the same people essentially.
Speaker 2 (55:44):
I've got one more question from online before we finish, um, which is about aco and are there any records of Austin's thoughts about London?
Speaker 1 (55:55):
I think there are <laugh>, um, and they're mainly contained in the Virginia Colonial records because, and also there's a book by the man who accompanied that group called Henry Timberlake, Lieutenant Henry, or Lieutenant Henry Timberlake. And his memoirs are published in which he kind of voices some of Austin's expressions and how he carried himself. So he was, and even Thomas Jefferson in his memoirs mentions ACO and what a powerful speaker he was. But it is so hard to get to the indigenous voice. It's something we, we generally have lost in, and they, it's very hard to recover in, in the records.
Speaker 2 (56:41):
Um, I wanted to say thank you very much to Dr. Stephanie, perhaps such a fascinating lecture and a quick plug for our next history lecture, which is going to be who benefited from the British Empire, which is on the 4th of April at six o'clock here. It's sold out in person, but you can still watch it online. Thank you very much, Dr.
Speaker 1 (57:00):
Thank you. Thank you everyone.