The Dakota install a practice of peace

 

An extract from an article  in the NY Times on August 21, 2021, by David Treuer, an Ojibwe Indian from Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. 

 

 

 

Dance in a Subterranean Roundhouse, oil on canvas, 1878.

Jules Tavernier, American born France, 1844-1889.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

He was writing about a communal ceremony called the Big Drum whose function it is to mourn, accept loss and process grief.

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Drum is an institution where men come together to conduct a ceremony in which they attend to the grieving. Each man taking a position on the Big Drum has a defined function in the ceremony.

 

They hold those in grief. They wash and comb them. They paint their faces with pigment. 

 

Then they drum, and chant, sway and dance around them.

 

The ritual lifts the grief away so that, as David Treuer says, a shocking grace can take its place and work its peace. 

 

 

David Treuer was himself seeking surcease from the overwhelming grief of the death of close ones which he feared would break him.

 

 

 

 

David Treuer told this story:

 

“Around 1750, a large Ojibwe war party armed with French guns and powder attacked a Dakota village at Mille Lacs Lake (Bde Wakhang in the Dakota language) from the north. They slaughtered Dakota in the open and dumped bags of powder down the smoke holes in the Dakota lodges, burning women and children alive.

 

 

 

 

 

“The Dakota fled down the Rum River and spread out to the west and south into the plains.

 

 

 

 

 

“The loss of their forest homelands was deeply felt and often remembered. 

 

 

 

 

“In the decades that followed, the Dakota and my tribe (the Ojibwe) lived together and in tension: We found a strange way to not get along. We intermarried and traded and lived with Dakota near our borders and fought with and destroyed and were destroyed by Dakota farther away…

 

 

 

 

“Roughly 100 years after the war party’s attack, a Dakota entourage arrived in Mille Lacs bearing a ceremonial gift for the Ojibwe who had conquered them, a shocking kind of grace in the face of grief and loss.

 

 

 

 

“They were received and feasted, and the Dakota presented a drum and a ceremony to the assembled Ojibwe.

 

 

 

 

 

“They were told that the ceremony was one of peace meant to forever close the wound of our mutual bloodletting.

 

 

 

 

 

“The Ojibwe were instructed to pick, or “seat,” people for different positions in the ceremonial society.

 

 

 

 

“They were also told that as the years passed and the ceremony spread to other communities, they would run out of people who had killed a Dakota and could then seat people who had killed other enemies.

 

 

 

 

 

“Eventually, if they stuck to the ceremony and its message of peace, they would run out of people who had killed anyone at all.”

 

 

 

 

 

In this recounting, the Dakota instruct the killers among their traditional enemy to take seats on either side of a Dakota participant in this ceremony of remembrance and expurgation and epuration and peace-making.

 

 

 

 

David Breuer notes that today it is veterans of US armed forces who are invited to take up seats on The Big Drum because they have created and endured hell.  

 

 

Dance in a Subterranean Roundhouse, oil on canvas, 1878.

Jules Tavernier, American born France, 1844-1889.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

This was a ceremony of the Elem Pomo of California which the artist attended with a number people who were not American Indians.  One of these was San Francisco’s leading banker, Tiburcio Parrot who commissioned this painting.    

At the time of this painting, Tiburcio Parrot was operating a toxic mercury mine on the Elem Pomo’s ancestral land.

It took the artist two years to complete this painting. 

 

 

 

*********************************

 

 

 

 

Jules Tavernier was born and trained in France.  He exhibited in the Paris salons in the 1860’s. 

He travelled to New York via London in 1871.

 

The Transcontinental Railroad was opened in 1869.  Jules Tavernier and his French colleague, Paul Frenzeny, were hired by Harper’s Weekly to illustrate the expansion of Euro-American civilization to the West and the forced relocation of American Indians to the margins of the continent. 

Jules Tavernier sought encounters with American Indians.  He settled in San Francisco in 1874 and was considered one of the city’s leading artists.  

 

 

 

 

Around the campfire (Encampment in the Redwoods), 1875, oil on canvas. 

Jules Tavernier, American born France, 1844-1889. Private collection on  loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2021

 

 

 

 

Indian Village at Dawn, either 1875 or 1880-1884, oil on canvas. 

Jules Tavernier, American born France, 1844-1889. Loaned by the Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2021

 

 

 

 

 

A Disputed Passage (in the Days of ’46), 1876, oil on canvas.

Jules Tavernier, American born France, 1844-1889. Loan by the Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Gathering of the Clans (Lakota Encampment), c. 1876, oil on canvas. Photo from the website of the Oakland Museum of California.

 

 

Gathering of the Clans (Lakota Encampment), c. 1876, oil on canvas.

Jules Tavernier, American born France, 1844-1889. Oakland Museum of California  loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2021

 

Members of the Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapahao tribes arrive in advance of the Sun Dance of 1874 which the artist witnessed.  Addressing the group of women at left is Sitting Bull, Oglala headman of the Southern Lakota. 

In the distance is the Crow Buttes landmark.

 

 

 

 

 

Sentinel Rock, Yosemite, oil on canvas, 1886.

Jules Tavernier, American born France, 1844-1889. Private collection on  loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sunset in Wyoming, 1889, oil on canvas. 

Jules Tavernier, American born France, 1844-1889.  Private collection loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2021

 

 

 

Jules Tavernier met an early death of heart attack in Hawaii where he lived and worked the last four years of his life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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