Spearing Muskrats in Winter, 1849-1855

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The muskrat heads peeking from the sack bode well for this hunt. A cold, white landscape still stretches ahead, but the echo of the hunters’ poses suggests a bond of camaraderie. Facing a dwindling supply of animals with desirable fur pelts, such as beaver, Native people hunted (and ate) muskrat, though its pelt earned far less at the trading company. As illustrated here, hunters stuck spears directly into muskrat dens, or axed through them. The handsome red hood, trimmed in beads and ribbon, kept snow off the hunter’s neck.

This watercolor, one of 35 works on paper by Seth 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).

Spearing Muskrats in Winter
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 8
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 collectionsdata@artsmia.org.

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