Joe Pulliam Strong Heart Society
A watercolor made on antique ledger paper (1879) by Lakota artist Joe Pulliam. The paint only partially masks the writing on the ledger; the writing is still evident on close inspection (see the third image). Pulliam’s work is in the permanent collection of the National Museum of the American Indian and is featured in Unbound: Narrative Art of the Plains at the George Gustav Heye Center from March 12 through December 4, 2016.
This painting depicts a member of the Strong Heart Society. The artist writes:
“The purpose of this society was to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually capable of taking care of any emergency that could affect the tribe. Members had to pledge to codes of good moral character including self control of one’s actions and emotions, and to always be ready at a moment’s notice. Many members of this society as well as other members of the Sioux tribe chose to fight to the death rather than submit to the white man’s authority. Those that remained suffered the complete loss of their way of life and witnessed the destruction of the land and animals, thus losing everything that was dear to them.
“Cante’tinza: Lakota for Brave or Strong Heart Society
Dragonfly body: symbolizes the belief held by the Lakota tribe that life and death represent transformations of form, just as dragonflies transform from water nymphs.
The cross: the four directions or the four elements (wind, fire, earth, and water)”
Visible 17” w x 22 ¼” h; framed 23 ½” x 28”; tThe painting is double matted and framed in a dark wood.