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Core Theme–Chiefs and Leaders:
Leadership Qualities

Catlin met and painted Indians famous in American history–men such as Black Hawk, the vanquished Sac and Fox leader of the so-called Black Hawk War; Black Hawk's rival, Kee-o-kúk, who became chief of the Sac and Fox; The Open Door, Shawnee prophet and brother of Tecumseh; and Os-ce-o-lá, leader of the Seminoles. All of these men were leaders of tribes engaged in the fierce struggle to retain their native lands. Catlin also met and painted prominent men who were still living on their ancestral lands. These men are little recognized in written history, but they are remembered in the oral traditions of their tribes as powerful leaders: the Mandan chief Four Bears; the aged Hidatsa chief Black Moccasin; Buffalo Bull's Back Fat, head chief of the Blood Indians; and the Grand Pawnee head leader, Horse Chief.

This theme features these chiefs and leaders and many others painted by Catlin. It highlights the personal qualities and achievements of these leaders, and how their status was reflected in their dress and appearance. Students discover how symbols, stance, and gesture convey power and authority and how garments, such as "power shirts," can proclaim the accomplishments and rank of their owners. Lesson plans on this website correlate with national curriculum standards for U.S. History, English Language Arts, and Visual and Performance Arts.

Classroom Activities–Lesson Plans

  1. Leadership, Past and Present
  2. Symbols of Power in Native American Clothing
  3. Cracking Catlin's Code
  4. Quiz Show! What Were You Thinking? What Did You Say?

If you need assistance in implementing these activities, please consult our museum's education staff. They can help adapt or expand the existing lessons to meet your circumstances and curricular goals. Please contact us at AmericanArtEducation[at]

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