This is a remarkable lithographic portrait of Wakechai, A Saukie, from McKenney and Hall’s three-volume work, Indian Tribes of North America. This portrait was printed in 1842 and is paired with an antique Native American arrowhead.
Wakechai, or the Crouching Eagle, was one of the village chiefs, or civil magistrates, of the Saukie nation, and resided at the principal town of that people, near the confluence of the Rock and Mississippi Rivers, in one of the most beautiful regions of Illinois. This portrait was originally painted by Charles Bird King during Wakechai's visit to Washington, D.C. in 1835. The print shows Wakechai, in a head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front, wearing a head scarf with two feathers and a metal arm band on his right arm.
Indian Tribes of North America has long been celebrated for its faithful and conscientious portraits of Native Americans. The lithographs in the book are based on paintings by the renowned artist Charles Bird King. The War Department employed King to paint the Indian delegates visiting Washington, forming the basis of the War Department's Indian Gallery. Most of King's original paintings were subsequently destroyed in a fire at the Smithsonian. As such, their appearance in McKenney and Hall's magnificent work is our only record of the likenesses of many of the most prominent nineteenth century Indian leaders.
Thomas McKenney spent six year as the Superintendent of Indian Trade; during his tenure he became increasingly concerned for the survival of the Western tribes. McKenney observed calculating individuals take advantage of the Native Americans for profit and his vocal warnings about their future prompted President Monroe to appoint McKenney to the Office of Indian Affairs. As the first director, McKenney was tasked to improve the administration of Indian programs across various government offices.
In the summer of 1829, McKenney took his first trip to Lake Superior for a treaty with the Chippewa, opening mineral rights on their land. In 1827, he journeyed west again for a treaty with the Chippewa, Menominee, and Winebago in the present state of Michigan. His journeys provided an unparalleled opportunity to acquaint himself with Native American tribes and leaders. When President Jackson dismissed him from his government post in 1830, McKenney was able to turn more of his attention to his grand publishing project, the Indian Tribes of North America. Within a few years, James Hall, a lawyer who had written extensively about the West, joined him. McKenney and Hall saw their work as a way of preserving an accurate visual record of what they feared was a rapidly disappearing culture. The book was published in three volumes, from 1836 to 1844.
This lithograph has full original hand color. Paper is healthy with no signs of foxing marks. Slight printing from verso is visible. Antique arrowhead is comprised of carved stone, and has been archivally cleaned prior to framing. Both lithograph and arrowhead are framed to conservation standards, with acid-free mats, UV glass, and a custom-built black beaded frame. Framed Size: 29” H x 22” W x 2” D.
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