Miller splits the energy of this composition into two parts: the windswept, active rush of the figures on land and the calm, receding figures in water. He described this work as a "quiet evening scene, with Snake Indians looking for a good fording place, on the way to the Camp from a hunting excursion." (Ross, 144) The loss of momentum, as you move right across the image, contributes to the fading air of emotional intensity in the scene and follows Miller’s description as the wind down of a hunting excursion and the return to camp. The merging of the two disparate compositional scenes can be interpreted as the long head rush of masculine prowess and dominance of the American Indian, from the tangled forests and landscape of the Rockies, into the slow, deep waters of history, surrendered territory and acquiescence of power to the encroaching European.
Emily C. Wilson