Dog Dance of the Dacotahs, 1849

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Seth Eastman owned an early daguerreotype—a coincidence since a relative founded Eastman Kodak in the 1890s—and may have used it to record this scene. Native people attached immense cultural meaning to the power of the photograph, which may account for the startled looks on the men near the middle (one pointing, one crouching). In the Dog Dance, Dakota villagers attempted to absorb canine virtues (Dakota people greatly admired dogs) by eating the heart and liver of a newly sacrificed dog. This prize had to be grabbed from the pole with teeth, not hands, as the picture shows. Other dancers mimic dog behavior.

This watercolor, one of 35 works on paper by Eastman in Mia’s collection, was the basis for an illustration in Henry Rowe Schoolcraft’s massive "Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States" (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co., 1851-57).

Dog Dance of the Dacotahs
Artist Life
Accession Number
James J. Hill (St. Paul, 1838-1916); his estate; James Jerome Hill Reference Library St. Paul (by 1921-1994; sold October, to MacMillan); W. Duncan MacMillan, Wayzata (1994-d. 2006); the W. Duncan and Nivin MacMillan Foundation (2006-2014; given to MIA)
Catalogue Raisonne
Seth Eastman: A Portfolio of North American Indians 18
Curator Approved

This record is from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator, so may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email

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