Commanding General, a boy (Wa-Ta-We-Buck-A-Na)

In the 1830s Catlin made five trips west to paint Plains Indians. This portrait of an Ioway Indian boy whose name, Wa-Ta-We-Buck-A-Na, means “commanding general,” was part of Catlin’s Indian Gallery—a large collection of portraits and genre scenes that the artist exhibited in various East Coast cities and in Europe. With these paintings Catlin documented cultures that he believed were vanishing, as smallpox and the encroachments of white settlers decimated Native American populations.

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