From 1831 to 1837, George Catlin traveled extensively among the native peoples of North America—from the Muskogee and Miccosukee Creeks of the Southeast to the Lakota, Mandan, and Pawnee of the West, and from the Winnebagos and Menominees of the North to the Comanches of eastern Texas. Studying their habits, customs, and modes of life, he made copious notes and numerous sketches of ceremonies, buffalo hunts, symbols, and totems. Catlin’s unprecedented fieldwork culminated in more than five hundred oil paintings and his now-legendary journals, which, as Peter Matthiessen writes in his introduction, “taken together... constitute the first, last, and only ‘complete’ record of the Plains Indians ever made at the height of their splendid culture, so soon destroyed by traders’ liquor and disease, rapine and bayonets.”
George Catlin (1796-1873) abandoned his law practice to live among the Plains Indians of North America, acquiring their languages and studying their habits, customs, and mode of life. His huge collection of pictures, artifacts, and findings were exhibited around the United States and Europe to great acclaim.
Peter Matthiessen was the cofounder of the Paris Review and is the author of numerous works of nonfiction, including In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, Indian Country, and The Snow Leopard, winner of the National Book Award.