Encampment of Indians

Alfred Jacob Miller1858-1860

The Walters Art Museum

The Walters Art Museum

"In the foreground of the sketch, the principal figure is a female sustaining her child by a fillet around the brow;- this is the mode practiced when she walks. In riding out the child is hung to the saddle bow. When she is engaged in any domestic emplyment, it is suspended from the branch of a tree, or on the tripod near the lodge. In the backgrund, the inevitable calumet is being smoked,- the violation of a friendship formed by the pipe is deemed infamous among the Indians, and hence it is of the utmost importance to join in this ceremony. It is used on some occasions as a religious observance - by it they declare war & secure peace, invoking the sun and moon as witnesses to their sincerity. It is also soemtimes sent on long journeys to parties with whom they wish to form treaties. In all cases it is regarded as a solemn oath and sacred engagement." A.J. Miller, extracted from "The West of Alfred Jacob Miller" (1837).

In July 1858 William T. Walters commissioned 200 watercolors at twelve dollars apiece from Baltimore born artist Alfred Jacob Miller. These paintings were each accompanied by a descriptive text, and were delivered in installments over the next twenty-one months and ultimately were bound in three albums. Transcriptions of field-sketches drawn during the 1837 expedition that Miller had undertaken to the annual fur-trader's rendezvous in the Green River Valley (in what is now western Wyoming), these watercolors are a unique record of the closing years of the western fur trade.

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