Tombs of Assiniboin Indians on Trees

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Image information:

Wolves watch makeshift tombs, built in trees.

From 1841 aquatint1 printed from engraving – Published by Ackerman and Co., London

Original painting by Karl Bodmer2 July 4, 1833.

An elemental scene painted by Bodmer on July 4, 1833, with the quiet spirituality of the place disturbed by the prowling wolves at the foot of the tree burials. The travelers aboard the steamer Assiniboine arrived at Fort Union, the uppermost point for steamer traffic just above the junction of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers, on June 24, 1833, after a journey of seventy-five days up the Missouri River from St. Louis. They stayed until July 6, when they departed upriver by keelboat for Fort McKenzie. The Assiniboins, like the Sioux, frequently placed their dead on platforms secured to scaffolds or tree limbs: here the quietness of the place is emphasized by the luxuriant trees and undergrowth surrounding the clearing in which the burial stands. 3

Swiss-born Bodmer was engaged by Prince Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied (1782-1867) specifically to provide a record of his travels in North America, principally among the Plains Indians. In the company of David Dreidoppel (Prince Maximilian’s servant and hunting companion), their travels in North America were to last from 1832 to 1834.  (Donald A. Heald, Rare Books, Prints & Maps)

For over one-hundred-fifty years Bodmer’s aquatints have remained the major source of information regarding Plains Indian culture. 4

Image from Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Image has been enhanced for color saturation, contrast and correction of fading,


1. Aquatint is an intaglio printmaking technique, a variant of etching. (Wikipedia)
2. Karl Bodmer (Wikipedia)
3. Tombs of Assiniboin Indians on Trees. (Donald A Heald, Rare Books, Prints & Maps)
4.  About the Karl Bodmer Collection (J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah)

american history, art, critters, forests, history, north dakota
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