Native American Chief
Oil on Board
Dad loved painting Native Americans, particularly the Sioux. I have his old sketchbooks from his Art Center days, and not only are there lots of sketches, but he took a lot of notes from either a class he took or some reading and studying he did about the many hardships and oppression that they faced. I always wished that Dad had done more portraits, because he was so amazing at them, and whenever he painted a Native American, he always captured the dignity, drama, and depth of them so well.
Growing up, he had always been told that their family line had Sioux Indian bloodline in them, however it was always just family tradition with no real concrete evidence. You do see some physical traits in the Love side of the family (my Dad's mom's side), but we always just thought it was most likely just family lore.
Family Legend Confirmed
About 9 years ago, however, our unofficial family historian, my cousin Carey, in all of her incredible study and research on our family history, discovered the truth of our Native bloodline.
Carey discovered that Dad's Great x5 Grandpa was a Sioux Indian Chief named Chief Paints His Face Dark Like a Bear, or "Chief Smutty Bear" for short. Smutty Bear's daughter, Red Blanket, married a white man who had been given the name Standing Bear, and eventually the descendants married into the Love family, who eventually married into the McGinty family.
Smutty Bear's teepee encampment was right at the mouth of the Floyd River in Sioux City where it dumps into the Missouri River. They were there when James Cook came up from Omaha to explore and survey land in hopes of founding a new city.
When Cook arrived, Smutty Bear knew that when the white people came around, there would be trouble. He opposed Cook's expedition, but Cook simply told him that if he opposed, he would go back to Omaha and bring back men with guns, who would surely take care of Smutty Bear and his people.
Discouraged but wise, Smutty Bear knew that death wasn't the answer, and so he made peace with the white settlers and eventually moved up to Yankton, South Dakota. There is a a trail and nature areas near Gavins Point Dam that is named Smutty Bear Trail.
Later on, the white settlers continued to encroach upon the Natives' land, and the US Government offered a "deal" to them. Smutty Bear, along with a number of other Sioux chiefs, traveled to Washington, D.C., in order to meet with government officials and sign the treaty.
On their way there, they were photographed in St. Louis, and the photos from that session were the first photos ever taken of Native Americans, which are the photos depicted here.
Upon arrival in D.C., the terms of the treaty had changed incredibly unfavorable for the chiefs and their people. Smutty Bear refused to sign at first, knowing it would be a disaster, however the other chiefs reasoned that if they don't, it would be death for everyone. Knowing that this was true, Smutty Bear relented, and with the others, signed the treaty handing over hundreds of thousands of acres of land against their will.
But Smutty Bear did one thing that would prove to be important for all Native Americans. Part of the land to be taken was a plot of land called Pipestone Quarry. It's a quarry in Minnesota where the Natives quarry for a soft, red rock call calcinite, also known as pipestone. It is used for their ceremonial and personal peace pipes.
Smutty Bear negotiated with the U.S. Government, asking to allow them to keep Pipestone in their possession, and the U.S. agreed. Of course, that agreement didn't last long, and the U.S. Government reclaimed Pipestone Quarry as their own, but they did at least keep as protected, and to this day only Native Americans are allowed to quarry there.
In 2020, I contacted a Sioux man living in Minnesota who is a fourth generation pipe maker, and I commissioned him to make me a replica pipe to the shape and measurements of the one that Smutty Bear is holding in his pictures. It is made of real pipestone and is a perfect match to the one my Great x6 Grandpa used to own. Dad LOVED it and was so excited and impressed that I was able to have one made.
My Great x6 Grandfather,
Yankton Sioux Chief Smutty Bear
Chief Smutty Bear (center) and his warriors.