In several instances in his Rough Draughts, Miller discusses pipe smoking as a common leisure activity among the Plains Indians he met at the rendezvous and on his journey west. Images like Snake Indian and His Dog corroborate this vision. Likely comparing the activity to pipe smoking among Euro-Americans, the artist perceived smoking as an enjoyable, relaxing pastime. Elsewhere in his notes, Miller lends the practice more importance, calling its use ceremonial, “a religious observance.” (Ross, 167) Plains Indians did smoke tobacco informally and also used and continue to smoke pipes as a means of prayer.
Miller ruminated on the theme of smoking because it was both relatable yet exotic. In the hand of a Snake Indian in a western American setting, a pipe with a wisp of tobacco smoke rising from its bowl was an ideal theme for Miller, an artist with Romantic inclinations.
LL: AJMiller. LR: 75
The artist; William T. Walters, Baltimore, MD; present owner by gift