MCKENNEY, Thomas L. (1785-1859) and James HALL (1793-1868)
Wa-Na-Ta, The Charger, Grand Chief of the Sioux
Philadelphia: E. C. Biddle, 1836. Hand-coloured lithograph. In excellent condition apart from the usual light off-setting in the plate. Sheet size: 18 7/8 x 13 1/4 inches.
A fine image from McKenney and Hall's 'Indian Tribes of North America': `One of the most important [works] ever published on the American Indians' (Field),` a landmark in American culture' (Horan) and an invaluable contemporary record of a vanished way of life.
The son of Shappa Indian Red Thunder, Wa-Na-Ta (d. 1848) also known as 'The Charger', was born on the Elm River in South Dakota and was a revered chief of the Yanktonai tribe, which hailed from a village on the St. Peter's River. Along with his father, he fought for the British in the War of 1812, in which he distinguished himself as a loyal and valiant warrior. Despite the defeat of the British, Wa-Na-Ta was awarded for his exceptional heroism in a reception at the English court with a promotion to captain in the British army. He later shifted his allegiance to the United States to which he would remain loyal for the remainder of his life. In 1825, he signed the Treaty of Fort Pierre as well as the landmark Prairie du Chien treaty, which established peace and territorial boundaries between the Sioux, Chippewas, Sac and Foxes, and Ioways. His portrait was later painted by Catlin, the author of the North American Indian Portfolio, in 1832. The engineer and explorer Major Stephen H. Long described the appearance of Wa-Na-Ta, whom he met in 1835 during a scientific expedition along the St. Peter's River, as follows: "The most prominent part of his apparel was a splendid cloak or mantle of buffalo skins, dressed so as to be of a fine white colour; it was decorated with small tufts of owl's feathers, and others of various hues...A splendid necklace, formed of about sixty claws of the grizzly bear, imparted a manly character to his whole appearance. His leggings, jacket, and moccasins, were in the real Dakota fashion, being made of white skins, profusely decorated...his moccasins were variegated with the plumage of several birds. In his hair he wore nine sticks, neatly cut and smoothed, and painted with vermilion; these designated the number of gunshot wounds which he had received...We had never seen a nobler face, or a more impressive character, than that of the Dakota chief, as he stood that afternoon..." McKenney and Hall's 'Indian Tribes of North America' has long been renowned for its faithful portraits of Native Americans. The portraits are largely based on paintings by the artist Charles Bird King, who was employed by the War Department to paint the Indian delegates visiting Washington D.C., 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, and their appearance in McKenney and Hall's magnificent work is thus our only record of the likenesses of many of the most prominent Indian leaders of the nineteenth century. Numbered among King's sitters were Sequoyah, Red Jacket, Major Ridge, Keokuk, and Black Hawk. After six years as Superintendent of Indian Trade, Thomas McKenney had become concerned for the survival of the Western tribes. He had observed unscrupulous individuals taking advantage of the Native Americans for profit, and his vocal warnings about their future prompted his appointment by President Monroe to the Office of Indian Affairs. As first director, McKenney was to improve the administration of Indian programs in various government offices. His first trip was during the summer of 1826 to the Lake Superior area 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 become acquainted with Native American tribes. When President Jackson dismissed him from his government post in 1830, McKenney was able to turn more of his attention to his publishing project. Within a few years, he was joined by James Hall, a lawyer who had written extensively about the west. McKenney and Hall saw their work as a way of preserving an accurate visual record of a rapidly disappearing culture. (Gilreath).
Cf. Howes M129; cf. Bennett 79; cf. Field 992; cf. Lipperheide Mc 4; cf. Reese American Color Plate Books 24; cf. Sabin 43410a.