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Sketch of the Pawnee (Wichita) Village by George Catlin


Sketch
George Catlin sketched the Wichita village at the North Fork of the Red River, but never painted it; the image was placed in his 1841 compendium. Catlin tended to exaggerate the landscape; the Wichita Mountains are nowhere near this tall (Smithsonian).

Pennyslvania native George Catlin (1796-1872) decided to follow his curiosity all the way to Indian Territory. Instead of working as a lawyer, for which he trained, he joined military expeditions to explore, learn, paint, and document the native people west of the Mississippi River.


In 1834, he visited a Wichita village about 90 miles west from the Wichita mountains along the North Fork of the Red River with Colonel Dodge's expedition. The Wichitas were often called the "Pawnees" by the Spanish, and Catlin documented them this way in his book, "North American Indians, Volume II" (1841).* The village he depicted was most likely occupied by the Taovayas and Wacos, who had moved westward into Indian Territory and away from their previous village at Spanish Fort (Montague County, Texas and Jefferson County, Oklahoma) upon entering the tribe's self-described "dark period" of disease, warfare, and exploitation.


The Pawnee/ Wichita village that George Catlin sketched was abandoned by the 1860s, with the Taovayas and Wacos joining their kin, the Caddos, in a joint reservation in Indian Territory.


*Like the Taovayas and Wacos, the Pawnees are a nation with linguistic and cultural kinship to the Wichitas of Kansas.

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