Object Image

Caddo Indians Chasing Buffalo, Cross Timbers, Texas

"There are, by a fair calculation, more than 300,000 Indians, who are now subsisted on the flesh of the buffaloes, and by those animals supplied with all the luxuries of life which they desire, as they know of none others. The great variety of uses to which they convert the body and other parts of that animal, are almost incredible to the person who has not actually dwelt amongst these people, and closely studied their modes and customs. Every part of their flesh is converted into food, in one shape or another, and on it they entirely subsist. The robes of the animals are worn by the Indians instead of blankets---their skins when tanned, are used as coverings for their lodges, and for their beds; undressed, they are used for constructing canoes---for saddles, for bridles---l'arrêts, lasos, and thongs. The horns are shaped into ladles and spoons---the brains are used for dressing the skins---their bones are used for saddle trees---for war clubs, and scrapers for graining the robes---and others are broken up for the marrow-fat which is contained in them. Their sinews are used for strings and backs to their bows---for thread to string their beads and sew their dresses. The feet of the animals are boiled, with their hoofs, for the glue they contain, for fastening their arrow points, and many other uses. The hair from the head and shoulders, which is long, is twisted and braided into halters, and the tail is used for a fly brush." (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 31, 1841; reprint 1973)

Credit: Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.

1846-1848
Oil on canvas
49.7 x 70.0cm
1985.66.589
Image and text: Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2023

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Smithsonian American Art Museum