Day's end. A quiet time, a time for reflection, even brooding over an evening pipe. Smoking was a solace, a heart's balm, a source of individual contentment. With each puff on a pipe, one's worries were said to lift like the smoke and dissipate into the air. Indians made smoking into a ritual. In some cultures it was a part of religious practice as well as of ordinary social intercourse. Smoking the pipe could be an invocation to the gods, a test of integrity or a sign of friendship.
The pensive Cree in Grubpile (a title derived from the supper call on the roundup) appears oblivious to the activity behind him as a party of hunters wend their way home. The camp seems still. The pale moon, the pink glow on the distant bluffs, and the blanket-wrapped figure seated beside his temporary shelter, tobacco pouch and drum at hand, his small fire casting a reflection on the water, all convey a hushed twilight mood. Russell was known as a painter of action, but in many of his Indian pictures he revealed a contemplative side.