Bull Chief- Color Is the Medicine

2017

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Acrylic, Ink, Digital Painting print on Baryta Photographic Rag, on 1907 Silverbow County Linen paper on canvas. (2017)

48"x48"x1.5"

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Bull Chief, born in 1825 with an unknown death date, was part of the Crow, or Apsaroke tribe. He was interviewed by a man named Edward S. Curtis, who visited many tribes during the 20th century for interviews and to take portraits of the Natives. As a young man Bull Chief was never very successful when he was part of war-parties and always returned home without honor. He believed it was unnecessary for one to fast in order to be successful in a battle, and therefore opted not to fast. Being so unsuccessful after returning from battle after battle, Bull Chief decided to climb Cloud Peak, which is the highest peak of the Bullhorn Mountains in Wyoming. Bull Chief stayed up on Cloud Peak for one day and one night hoping to have a vision, but having no luck he had to leave because mountain-rats were biting through his clothes and a fierce blizzard was causing hazardous conditions. When Bull Chief returned home, his village was getting ready to be moved to a new location. Based on landmarks mentioned in the new location, it appears the tribe was moved near Red Lodge Creek, MT. This transition time, Bull Chief decided to continue trying to fast in order to have a vision. He fasted for four days and four nights, but still had no vision. After which, he tried two more times unsuccessfully. Seeing that his current attempts were failing, and all of the other men in his tribe counting coup he again decided to try something new. For this attempt, he went up to the head of Red Lodge Creek to fast for four days and for four nights in blinding snow. This time his experience turned out much different from all of his previous attempts. He had a vision in which he, “Saw his own lodge and a splendid bay horse standing in front of it.” It was not explained as to what this vision meant, but thereafter Bull Chief began to do remarkably well in battles. Shortly after the vision, Bull Chief was able to get his first honor and started counting coupe frequently. Counting coup is the highest honor for winning intertribal wars between Plains Indians. Bull Chief's determination and personal strength helped him to his successes as a hunter, in combat, and in spiritual pursuits.

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