Chief Buffalo Picture Search: Conclusion

December 7, 2013

This post concludes the Chief Buffalo Picture Search, a series of posts attempting to determine which images of Chief Buffalo are of the La Pointe Ojibwe leader who died in 1855, and which are of other chiefs named Buffalo.  To read from the beginning, click here to read Chief Buffalo Picture Search:  Introduction.

 

This is Chief Buffalo from St. Croix, not Chief Buffalo from La Pointe.

This lithograph from McKenney and Hall’s History of the Indian Tribes, was derived from an original oil painting (now destroyed) painted in 1824 by Charles Bird King.Buffalo from St. Croix was in Washington in 1824.  Buffalo from La Pointe was not.  Read:

Chief Buffalo Picture Search:  The King and Lewis Lithographs

This could be Chief Buffalo from La Pointe.  It could also be Chief Buffalo from St. Croix

This lithograph from James Otto Lewis’ The Aboriginal Port-Folio is based on a painting done by Lewis at the Treaty of Prairie du Chien in 1825 or at the Treaty of Fond du Lac in 1826 (Lewis is inconsistent in his own identification). The La Pointe and St. Croix chiefs were at both treaties.  Read:

Chief Buffalo Picture Search:  The King and Lewis Lithographs

This is not Chief Buffalo of La Pointe.  This is the clan marker of Oshkaabewis, a contemporary chief from the headwaters of the Wisconsin River.

The primary sources clearly indicate that this birch bark petition was carried by Oshkaabewis to Washington in 1849 as part of a delegation of Lake Superior Ojibwe protesting Government removal plans.  Read:

…a donation of twenty-four sections of land covering the graves of our fathers, our sugar orchards, and our rice lakes and rivers…  

One of these men could be Chief Buffalo of La Pointe.

This engraving from Benjamin Armstrong’s Early Life Among the Indians appears to depict the 1852 Washington Delegation led by Buffalo.  However, the men aren’t identified individually, and the original photograph hasn’t surfaced. Read:

Chief Buffalo Picture Search:  The Armstrong Engraving 

This is not Chief Buffalo of La Pointe. This is Buffalo the war chief from Leech Lake.

Buffalo and Flatmouth, two Pillager (Leech Lake) leaders had their faces carved in marble in Washington in 1855.  Buffalo was later copied in bronze, and both busts remain in the United States capitol.  The chiefs were part of a Minnesota Ojibwe delegation making a treaty for reservations in Minnesota.  Buffalo of Leech Lake was later photographed in St. Paul. Read:

Chief Buffalo Picture Search:  The Capitol Busts

This could be Chief Buffalo of La Pointe.  

Very little is known about the origin of this image.  It is most likely Chief Buffalo’s son Jayjigwyong, who was sometimes called “The Little Buffalo.”  Read:

Chief Buffalo Picture Search:  The Island Museum Painting

As it currently stands, out of the seven images investigated in this study, four are definitely not Chief Buffalo from La Pointe, and the other three require further investigation. The lithograph of Pee-che-kir from McKenney and Hallʼs History of the Indian Tribes, based on the original painting by Charles Bird King, is Buffalo from St. Croix. The marble and bronze busts in Washington D.C., as well as the carte-d-visite from Whitneyʼs in St. Paul, show Bizhiki the war chief from Leech Lake. The pictograph of the crane, once identified with Buffalo, is actually the Crane-clan chief Oshkaabewis. There is not enough information yet to make a determination on the lithograph of Pe-schick-ee from James Otto Lewisʻ Aboriginal Port Folio, on the image of the 1852 delegation in Armstrongʼs Early Life Among the Indians, or on the photo and painting of the man in the military coat.

In the end, the confusion about all of these images can be attributed to authors with motivations other than recording an accurate history of these men, authors who were not familiar enough with this time period to realize that there was more than one Buffalo. Charles Bird King and Francis Vincenti created some beautiful work in the national capital, but their ultimate goal was to make a record of the look of a supposedly vanishing people. The Pillager Bizhiki was chosen to sit for the sculpture not for who he was, but for what he looked like. The St. Croix Buffalo was chosen because he happened to be in Washington when King was painting.  Over a century later, scholars like Horan and Holzhueter being more concerned with the art itself than the people depicted, furthered the confusion. Unfortunately, these mistakes had consequences for the study of history.

While this new information, especially in regard to the busts in Washington, may be discouraging to the people of Red Cliff and other descendants of Buffalo from La Pointe, there is also cause for excitement. The study of these images opens up new lines of inquiry into the last three decades of the chief’s life, a pivotal time in Ojibwe history. Inaccuracies about his life can be corrected, and people will stop having to come up with stories to connect Buffalo to images that were never him to begin with.

My hope is that this investigation will encourage people to learn more about all three Chief Buffalos, all of whom represented their people in Washington, as well as the other Ojibwe leaders from this time period. It is this hopeful story, as well as the possibility of further investigation into the three remaining images, that should lead Chief Buffaloʼs descendants to feel optimism rather than disappointment.

For now, this concludes the Great Chief Buffalo Picture Search.  I will update in the future, however, if new evidence surface.  Thanks for reading, and feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: