This composition began as a watercolor for Sir William Drummond Stewart’s album (CR# 155). Threatened Attack on the Caravan by a Horde of Indians (CR# 155C), now at the Gilcrease, likely served as the intermediary sketch. Although the Gilcrease sketch is rendered in oil, it is painted over tissue paper of almost the same dimensions, making it likely it was traced from the original Stewart painting.
Miller’s written commentary for this watercolor is extensive. The rough draft on which it is based shows little editing, suggesting this may have been a story he frequently told. According to Miller, the Lakota (Miller calls them Sioux) arrived one morning in a cloud of dust, armed and dressed for battle. The Indians regarded the trappers as encroaching on their land; their hunting depriving the Lakota of their rightful game. As compensation, the Lakota requested trade goods. But Miller presented the exchange in harshly ethnocentric terms as “a demand for blackmail…—Cloth, blankets, guns, tobacco & knives were accordingly hauled out of the wagons, and given to them.” To Miller, the Lakota were “unwelcome guests” and “a piratical horde.”
Miller’s image, however, does not show the tense exchange, but the dramatic arrival of the Lakota, who dash across the prairie toward the nonchalant trappers. Although the Lakota party appears large, the caravan stretches back even farther in the distance, portending the nearly endless stream of white commerce and settlement.
The artist; William T. Walters, Baltimore, MD; present owner by gift