Culturally and geographically diverse due to isolation by mountains, rivers, and deserts, California Indians lived in some 500 village communities throughout the state and spoke as many as 100 distinct languages. Although most lived by hunting and gathering, styles of housing and dress varied by region, as did spiritual beliefs and practices. Many artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries portrayed Indian subjects, sometimes accurately and other times, such as in this work, from the romantic standpoint of an outsider.
A native of Kassel, Germany, Nahl attended the art academy in his hometown. He moved to Paris in 1846, where he continued his studies. When Nahl came to California, he applied his precise, academic training to western subjects.