A Cheyenne Warrior Resting His Horse by George Catlin

Name: A Cheyenne Warrior Resting His Horse | Artist: George Catlin Media: Oil on card mounted on paperboard | Year(s): N.D.
George Catlin | A Cheyenne Warrior Resting His Horse | N.D. | Oil on card mounted on paperboard | National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

About the Work

This stately study of a man and his horse could be a close-up of one of the Cheyenne brothers departing on their fall hunt. The Sh'i-en'ne, as Catlin spelled it in 1840, were "a small, but very valiant tribe of 3,000, neighbours of the Sioux, on the west, between the Black Hills and the Rocky Mountains: a very tall race of men, second in stature to the Osages." He later doubled his population estimate and located the tribe between the Platte and Yellowstone Rivers, though by the 1830s the Cheyennes were already moving onto the Southern Plains, with the Arkansas River the northern boundary of their territory.

Catlin's painting speaks directly to the importance of the horse to all the Plains tribes. "If Indians feared horses initially," an historian of the Spanish empire in America observed, "they quickly came to covet and acquire them as a source of food, a means of transportation, a trade item, and as symbols of status and power." Horses transformed Plains Indian warfare and made them formidably mobile foes in battle. A Cheyenne warrior and his horse were a force to be reckoned with.