In Plains Indian culture, the exchange of one pipe, or calumet, among members of a party symbolized good faith and kinship ties between two groups. The calumet ceremony was widely known in the fur trade due to its role in facilitating trade relationships, establishing kinship between trading partners, solemnizing agreements, and legitimizing diplomatic negotiations. Stewart was surely familiar with the ceremony and its meanings because he includes a calumet ceremony in his novel Altowan.
In this watercolor, Miller portrays Stewart smoking a calumet while Antoine and the Indians watch. Their attention suggests that the party may be sharing the pipe as part of a ceremony. This idea is supported by the composition, which traces a circular route along the line of Stewart’s leg across the body of Antoine to Antoine’s bent knee, and back around toward the seated group of Indians.
UL: 13. LC: Interior on an Indian Lodge
The artist; Sir William Drummond Stewart, 1839; Frank Nichols Stewart, 1871; [Chapman’s, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1871]; Bonamy Mansell Power; willed to Edward Power, 1900; by descent to Major G.H. Power, Great Yarmouth, England; [Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, NY, 1966]; InterNorth Art Foundation, Omaha, NE; present owner