Oil painting, portrait of Ne-Sa-Au-Quot, or the Bear in the Fork of the Tree, 1837. Oil paint, wood. Painted by Charles Bird King (1785-1862), Washington D.C., United States. Chicago History Museum Colleciton. X. 513
Portrait of Ne-Sa-Au-Quot, or the Bear in the Fork of the Tree
Ne. SA. AW.Quot/Bear in the fork of the tree/By C. B. King 1837/Washington/Chief of the band of the Lac & Fox Indians
This portrait of Ne-Sa-Au-Quot was painted for the folio edition of the Thomas McKenney and James Halls' History of the Indian Tribes of North America. The portraits gained widespread publicity beyond Washington during this period as McKenney broadened his project by publishing a book on Native Americans. In 1829 he began what would become many years' worth of work on the three-volume work, History of the Indian Tribes of North America. The project featured the many portraits of Native Americans, mostly King's, in lithograph form, accompanied by an essay by the author James Hall.
This painting is a bust portrait of Ne-Sa-Au-Quot, a Mesquakie chief facing forward in a full view bust. His hair is pulled in top knot and has an eagle feather in his hair. He wears a headband around his forehead, and strings of beads from headband around ears. His face has stripes from cheek to cheek at nose line, mouth line, and chin cleft. Beads and a Washington Peace Medal lay around neck with a wolf skin over shoulders and chest with wolf head in center of chest, the skin edged in red cloth. His right arm and hand are placed over his chest and beads on forehead band appear to be glass chips painted over.
This oil painting is of Ne-Sa-Au-Quot. Although little is known about Ne-Sa-Au-Quot, a Mesquakie chief, the history of his tribe illustrates the disruptive effect the fur trade had on Native Americans. The Mesquakie, or Fox, originally lived along the St. Lawrence River, but rival tribes forced them out in the early 1600s. Moving to Wisconsin, they formed an alliance with the Iroquois and Great Britain, arch enemies of the French, and severely disrupted the fur trade along the Wisconsin and Chicago portages. Intermittent warfare with the French between 1712 and 1732 greatly reduced their numbers, and eventually, the Mesquakie sought refuge with the Sacs at Green Bay and moved with them to northwestern Illinois in the early 1800s. Both tribes had to move again in the 1830s when government treaties forced them to live on a reservation in Iowa. Ne-Sa-Au-Quot posed for this portrait, one of many commissioned by the U.S. War Department, while visiting Washington, D.C. to discuss terms of the treaty.