MCKENNEY, Thomas L. (1785-1859) and James HALL (1793-1868)
Wa-kawn, a Winnebago Chief
Philadelphia: J.T. Bowen, 1841. Hand-coloured lithograph. Very good condition. Image size (including text): 11 x 7 3/4 inches. Sheet size: 20 1/8 x 14 1/2 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.
Also known as the Snake, Wakawn (d. 1838) was a bold, indomitable Winnebago chief, who fought in the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe as part of the Indian Confederacy formed by the Shawnee leader Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa to protect native lands from the encroachment of Western settlers. He again fought with Tecumseh in support of the British in the War of 1812, after which he made peace with the United States. He reversed his previous positions and began to advocate Indian displacement and insist that Winnebago children be educated at the Indian School at Prairie du Chien. This earned him the respect of the U.S. government, but resulted in harsh censure from the other Winnebago chiefs, who accused him of too eagerly adopting the white man's customs. The Winnebago inhabited the Great Lakes region.
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. BAL 6934; cf. Bennett p.79; cf. Field 992; cf. Howes M129; cf. Lipperhiede Mc4; cf. Reese, Stamped With A National Character p. 24; Sabin 43410a.