The Blackfeet were among the last Indian people to enter into treaties with the United States and participated in the fur trade generally only to exchange bison hides. As a group, the Blackfeet took a neutral stance during conflicts on the Plains, but individual bands engaged in raiding when bison supplies were scarce.
Scenes of Indian-white hostilities are relatively rare in Miller’s artwork and his journal and notes do not include any eye-witness descriptions of conflict. This sketch, depicting a Blackfeet party raiding trappers’ horses at night, exists only in one other version, a finished watercolor for Alexander Brown. Stylistically, it appears to be earlier than the Brown commission. The economical yet confident draftsmanship in the rendering of the horses in the foreground, as well as the lightly washed forms of the distant herd resemble Miller’s field sketches, such as Mule Throwing off his Pack (CR# 283). It may be, then, that Miller experimented with this composition early on, but chose not to develop it further. Later Miller brought it back when Brown’s agent selected it for inclusion in the Brown commission.
UR: by the Blackfeet. LL: AJM
The artist; The Porter Collection; Mae Reed Porter, Kansas City, MO; [M. Knoedler and Company, New York, NY]; InterNorth Art Foundation, Omaha, NE; present owner