Dance to the "Berdache" (Saukie)

Object Number: 
1872.23.154
Date: 
1866-68
Medium: 
Graphite and black ink on prepared card
Dimensions: 
Overall: 18 3/8 x 24 1/8 in. ( 46.7 x 61.3 cm )
Marks: 
inscriptions: Signed
Inscriptions: 
Signed at lower right inside image in black ink: "Geo. Catlin"; inscribed at upper center outside image in black ink over graphite: "Pl. 154. / Dance to the 'Berdash.' (Saukie) "
Description: 
Ethnography. Studies of Native Americans: a large group of merry, smiling men with 'Mohawk-style' hair and extensive ornamented pierced ear modifications with jewelry dance around the tribe's 'berdash' or berdache, a male who takes the role, appearance and dress of a female and were viewed by most native tribes as having a sacred role. Native American spiritual philosophy not only accepts a 'third gender' status, but almost encourages it. With a few exceptions, the berdache were found to exist in almost every North American tribe, especially in the midwest, great plains and the southwest. Berdache males often became healers, surgeons, counselors, therapists, high religious priests, shamans, witch doctors, medicine men, and adoptive parents to tribal orphans. They could also become one of the multiple wives of Indian braves and, in rare cases, of females warriors. They were viewed as having a special 'blessed' status and were thought to be the middle gender, frequently seen as mystic and psychic prophets or visionaries.
Gallery Label: 
An annual dance given to the "Berdash", a man dressed in women's clothes
Credit Line: 
Purchased by the Society
Provenance: 
The artist's collection; Francis Putnam Catlin, the artist's brother, serving as agent to George Henry Moore, acting on behalf of N-YHS
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group