This image is more than likely the preparatory sketch for the version painted for William T. Walters (CR# 417B). The number ‘145’ inscribed on this watercolor corresponds to the number of the Rough Draughts text. Moreover, the composition is almost exactly the same, down to such incidental details as the animal skin hanging from one of the tipi poles in the background and the clothing and posture of the trapper.
In that text, Miller refers to the trapper communicating with his hosts via sign language. Sign language was the chief means of communication between members of different Indian tribes and between trappers and Indians who did not speak the same language. According to trapper Osbourne Russell, “It is impossible for a person not acquainted with the Customs of Indians to form a correct idea in which [way] a continuous conversation is held by hours between two individuals who cannot understand each other’s language but frequent practice renders it faultless and I have often seen two Americans conversing by signs by way of practice…" Osbourne Russell, Journal of a Trapper, ed. by Aubrey L. Haines (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1955), p. 78.