Sequester the Evidence

No photographs or images of my ancestor Bear Robe have emerged from the Oglala, Osage or French sides of my family.

With one exception.

A rolled-up canvas, tucked in the rafters of the family home in St. Louis, was discovered by accident more than 100 years after Bear Robe perished.

Seems that a nasty storm shook the house in 1967 and workmen were checking out the attic and found the canvas wrapped in leather around a Hawken rifle.

The canvas features Bear Robe, depicting her departure to the spirit world. A white pony accompanies her journey, and an image of her husband, Henri Chatillon, looks off the page of the canvas.

The house, now a museum in St. Louis, was built by Henri after he returned from the Oregon Trail, where he served as Francis Parkman’s guide. Bear Robe died in 1846 and Henri returned to Missouri, where he married his second wife, Odile Delor Lux. They built their home in 1850.

When I visited the museum the docents had several theories about the painting. They like to think Henri never recovered from Bear Robe’s death and commissioned the painting to remember her always.

Perhaps it was carefully tucked away because his wife Odile didn’t want the constant reminder of Henri’s first wife gracing their home.

[Day seven of Native American Heritage Month. I pledge one blog per day.]


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in authenticity, Francis Parkman, Henri Chatillion, Lakota, Native Science, Osage and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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