Chon-Ca-Pe, Chief of the Oto Tribe

Chon-Ca-Pe, Chief of the Oto Tribe
Chon-Ca-Pe, Chief of the Oto Tribe

Chon-Ca-Pe, Chief of the Oto Tribe


Thomas L. McKenney (1785 – 1859) and James Hall (1793 – 1868)

Hand-coloured lithograph.

Philadelphia: E. C. Biddle, 1837.

14 x 19.75 inches (35.6 x 50.2 cm)

General Information:
As a whole, the portraits in McKenney and Hall’s ‘Indian Tribes of North America’ (Philadelphia: 1836–1842–1844) are arguably the most important visual record of Native American culture ever published. McKenney aimed to educate the American public about these great warriors and chiefs and to preserve their images for posterity in a series of beautiful exotic portraits. The majority of the images were worked up from pictures in the War Department’s Indian Gallery, and almost all of these paintings were by the artist Charles Bird King. King was employed by the Department to record the Indian delegates who visited Washington D.C., but, unfortunately, most of these priceless paintings were destroyed in the 1865 Smithsonian fire. This left the published work as the only record of what many of the most important Native American leaders looked like.

Image Details:
The present image is of a chief of the Oto tribe. The Oto Indians were part of the Southern Sioux tribes who lived along the Missouri River near the present-day border of Missouri and Nebraska. They were buffalo-hunters and farmers, and signed two early treaties with the U.S. in 1817 and again in 1825.

Chon-Ca-Pe was one of the signatories to the later treaty which was intended to prevent any further interference by the Otos in the trade between Missouri and ‘the Mexican dominions’. The treaty was signed in Washington by an Oto delegation, a delegation of which he was a part. ‘We are to infer from this that he was a man of influence at home: and that he had the confidence of his tribe. It is to the reports of such a one alone that the Indians will listen; and it was the design that he and his comrades should not only witness our numbers and our power, but that the reports that should be made of both … should operate upon the fears of their tribes, and thus render more secure our trade with the Mexican frontier’ (McKenney and Hall).

A powerful image from McKenney and Hall’s masterpiece “Indian Tribes of North America”: ‘one of the most distinctive and important books in Americana’ (Reese) and ‘one of the most important [works] ever published on the American Indians’ (Field)’.

References: Cf. Bennett p.79; cf. Field 992; cf. Howes M129; cf. Lipperheide Mc 4; cf. Reese American Color Plate Books 24; cf. Sabin 43410a

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