Shoshone Painted Elk Hide, ca. 1895
It came down to me from my grandfather. He was in politics in Wyoming. And it was a gift to him, I think back in about the '30s. It was given to him by a man from Lander, Wyoming.
I think you know it's painted on elk hide, is what it appears to be. It's brain tanned, or it's native tanned hide. It's not a commercial tanned hide. It is Shoshone. This has all the earmarks of a father and his sons who painted hides in the 19th century, Washakie. The father was the chief of the Shoshone. He was an important chief. He was one of the longest lived chiefs. He lived to be in his late 80s or 90s. He was born in the early 1800s. He was a friend of Jim Bridgers, the fur trapper. And late in his life he started painting hides. His sons took it up also. One of the sons had the same name, Washakie, but died in the 1890s before his father passed in 1900. This would date to that time period, possibly a little earlier. One of the things we know about Washakie and his family is they used stencils or they used cutouts so they could do them with some accuracy. It's a narrative painting of a buffalo hunt. If you look up here, there's a buffalo being butchered. He's cut open, the head's cut off, the legs are cut off to use. You look down here, there's a lady carrying a buffalo hide that's already been pulled off. This really tells the story. And then you look in the center, and there's this big forked pole, like a sundance pole, with the front quarter of a buffalo in it, and it's topped by an eagle, and these are dancers. And the dancers that are going around the pole, they really have the look of Washakie dancers, of his dancers. The paint is probably a combination of some natural colors and commercial. The blue and maybe this green, I think they may be commercial paints. It's in good condition. You need to keep it out of the light. Some of the black's fading a little bit. It's hard to tell whether it's the father's or the son's. If it's the son's, I would say $12,000 to $18,000 at an auction sale. If it's the father's, probably bump it up, $16,000 to $20,000.
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