Sky Chief (Tirawahut Resaru)

Attributed to Edric L. Eaton (American, 1836–1890)

William Henry Jackson (American, 1843–1942)
ca. 1867
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Image: 18.6 × 13.2 cm (7 5/16 × 5 3/16 in.) Mount: 35.4 × 27.8 cm (13 15/16 × 10 15/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Sam Salz Foundation Gift, 2005
Accession Number:
  • Description

    This portrait of Sky Chief (Tirawahut Resaru), a Pawnee, has long been attributed to the frontier photographer William Henry Jackson (1843-1942). Between 1867 and 1869, Jackson acquired two photography studios in Omaha, Nebraska. With one of the businesses, that of Edric Eaton, came a large stock of negatives of Pawnees including the one from which this print was made. Eaton shows the Pawnee chief dressed in a typical late-1860s mix of U.S. military and traditional Native American clothing. Sky Chief, a close ally of the Federal government in its persistent struggle against the Dakota, an enemy of the Pawnee, wears an officer's frock coat with V-shaped cuffs over brightly striped leggings. Around his neck hangs a large, glinting U.S. peace medal, while in his left hand he holds a tomahawk-pipe, a ritual symbol of war and peace.
    Sky Chief would live only five years after this studio visit. In August 1871 the Dakota murdered his wife, leaving him in charge of his only son. Two years later, after a devasting crop loss, Sky Chief led a small band of hunters into Dakota territory in desperate search of buffalo. The party was attacked by nearly one thousand Dakota warriors and Sky Chief was shot. Before dying, he reportedly slew his three-year-old son so that the child would not be scalped alive, as he himself was, moments later.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Inscribed in negative, BL: "560"; printed on mount, recto BC below print: "W.H. Jackson Photo. // Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey of the Territories. // Prof. F.V. Hayden in Charge."; inscribed in ink, verso TR [sideways]: "P.485 // 560. Sky Chief. (Pawnee)"

  • Provenance

    [Mack Lee]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, September 3, 1985

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History