Robert Ruby and John Brown: On Paul Kane

The artist Paul Kane, enjoying the hospitality of the mission for a week in September, 1847, noted that its occupants were "happily located," and that the Spokanes treated them with great affection and respect. "No influence, however," he wrote, "seems to be able to make agriculturists of them, as they still pursue their hunting and fishing, evincing the greatest dislike to anything like manual labor." The spectacular Kettle Falls and its natives caught his artist's eye, as it had every traveler in those parts. Kane wrote that, like salmon battering themselves to death against the falls, "suicide prevails more among the Indians of the Columbia River than in any other portion of the continent which I have visited." As he saw it, the deaths were largely the aftermath of gambling losses.

Before leaving the falls, Kane dropped down to the nearby village of Kettle Falls (Chualpay) Indians to paint his now-famous "Scalp Dance by Spokane Indians" in oils on canvas [see below]. Its central figure, a woman who had lost her husband to the Blackfeet, whirled around a fire swashing and kicking in revenge a Blackfoot scalp on a stick. Behind her, eight painted women danced and chanted, as did the rest of the tribe to the beat of drums.

From The Spokane Indians: Children of the Sun. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 1970. Copyright © by U of Oklahoma P.

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Criticism Overview
Title Robert Ruby and John Brown: On Paul Kane Type of Content Contextual Criticism
Criticism Author Robert Ruby, John Brown Criticism Target Sherman Alexie
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 13 Jan 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication The Spokane Indians: Children of the Sun
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