chapter  3
24 Pages

“That Shocking Calamity”: Revisiting George Catlin’s Environmental Politics

Introduction: A Tale of Two Portraits In October of 1832, the American artist and essayist George Catlin (17961872) took a brief hiatus from his six-year journey to the distant headwaters of the Missouri River. Having dedicated his career to recording and advocating for Indian cultures and environments, Catlin returned to St. Louis to paint Black Hawk, the recently defeated Sauk leader of the Black Hawk War and prisoner in Jeerson Barracks. Catlin painted several individual portraits of Black Hawk and his compatriots, but two portraits of note emerge-one that he promoted with pride and a still relatively unknown one that he did not promote. Each represents a dierent side of George Catlin’s complicated relationship with Native American struggles.