Tab 11 - Funeral Scaffold of a Sioux Chief (near Fort Pierre)

Karl Bodmer

Bodmer’s America


Pulled from the original steel and copper plates, engraved in Paris between 1836 and 1843 under Karl Bodmer's direction, after the artist's own watercolours drawn from nature during the journey.

The engravings are hand-printed in colours, à la poupée, with extensive hand-colouring and some application of gum arabic, in the nineteenth-century manner.

Engraved by Hurlimann
Printed by Bougeard


A pencil drawing by Bodmer in the Joslyn collection dated April 28, 1834 describes a Sioux camp which the artist visited during a brief stop at Fort Pierre, South Dakota, on his return downriver from Fort Clark. The title of the subsequent print based on this sketch calls attention to the scaffold burial, at right. According to Prince Maximilian, this was said to hold the remains of a celebrated warrior.

Placing the dead upon raised platforms or in the branches of trees was a common practice among Plains tribes in the nineteenth century. The body of the deceased, wrapped tightly in a robe or blanket with small personal possessions, thus was elevated from accidental contact and
protected from the ravaging of wild animals. Skeletal remains from burials of this type sometimes were consigned later to the earth.

Having seen a great many of these funeral scaffolds during his travels on the upper Missouri, Maximilian considered this one to be unusual in featuring the basket-like framework over the corpse, probably placed there as additional protection from the scavenging of carrion birds.

Although similar in composition and general details to the later aquatint, Bodmer's initial sketch does not include the groups of figures to be seen in the foreground of the print.

Other Sioux subjects are reproduced in Tableau 8.

Text by David Hunt, Director, Stark Museum, Orange, Texas, USA

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Original Print

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