Miller explains the scene thus, “One of the strongest objections the Indians have made (in their removal to their homes in the Far West) has been that of leaving the graves of their relatives and friends. It is notorious that they traverse immense districts of wilderness for the sole purpose of paying a visit to the last resting place of their dead.” (Ross, 190)
The buffalo skull was a widely-used grave marker for the deceased. In life, the buffalo offered Plains tribes the bulk of their sustenance, along with material to fashion their clothing, tools, and shelter, and so in death, it is only appropriate for so revered an animal to mark a loved one’s passing. Fellow artists Karl Bodmer and George Catlin also depicted Plains Indian burial grounds, shrines, and medicine signs, illustrating the use of buffalo skulls in death and medicinal imagery.
Emily C. Wilson
Formerly on verso of mount: Mourning at skull marked grave/Terrace/land.
The artist; Carrie C. Miller, Annapolis; [Edward Eberstadt and Sons, New York, NY]; present owner