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Reactions: Horse Capture

Horse Capture photograph by Edward Curtis

Horse Capture - Atsina

c1908. The North American Indian, portfolio 5, plate 170. 

In volume 5 of The North American Indian, Curtis published this brief biography:


“Horse Capture, Waátyánath. Born near Milk River in 1858. When about fifteen years of age he went with a war-party against the Piegan, but achieved no honor. From their camp at Beaver Creek the Atsina sent out a war-party which came upon two Sioux. Remaining hidden in a coulee, the warriors sent an old man out as a decoy. When the Sioux charged him, the rest of the Atsina rushed out and killed them both. During the fight, Horse Capture ran up to one of the enemy, who was wounded, in order to count coup, when one of his companions dashed in ahead of him and was killed by the wounded Sioux. Horse Capture then counted first coup on the enemy and killed him. He married at the age of twenty-live.”

Joseph D. Horse Capture, the great-great-grandson of Horse Capture wrote about what he sees when he looks at this portrait: 

For my family, Horse Capture has been a role model. Although he passed before I was born, all of our family members have heard stories about him. Through Curtis's photography, through anthropological studies, and through oral history, we have come to know Horse Capture. By noting the clothing he wears in Curtis's photograph, we can see that he was a traditional Indian man. People recognized for their power wore pierced shirts, as he is wearing. He also wears an eagle-bone whistle, indicating that he has participated in sacred ceremonies. A scalp lock is attached to his rifle, representing his exploits as a warrior. He led a traditional life and dedicated himself to the care of one of the objects most sacred to my people, the Flat Pipe.

These connections between the past and present make Curtis's work important to us—visual reminders of our people and our commitment to future generations.

Joseph D. Horse Capture, great-great-grandson of Horse Capture, quoted in Christopher Cardozo (ed.), Sacred Legacy: Edward S. Curtis and The North American indian (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000), page 27.

Our Reactions series combines photographs and text from The North American Indian with reactions to those images and stories by Native Peoples today. See more Reactions here.

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