The Life and Death of Four Bears
By any standard, Mato Topé, second chief of the Mandans, was a remarkable man. Known to the whites as Four Bears, he was the most prominent Indian of his day on the upper Missouri River. He was without peer as a warrior, but he was also a husband, father, artist, and ceremonial leader. The American artist George Catlin described him as an “extraordinary man,” handsome, generous, and brave, “the most popular man in the nation.”1 The life of Four Bears, as recorded by himself and by visiting artists, and his death, as recorded by fur trader Francis Chardon, illustrate the warrior culture of the Plains Indians and the sudden collapse of an entire society amid the horrors of a smallpox epidemic.
KeywordsNorthern Plain Sudden Collapse Buffalo Meat American Artist Body Paint
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