Although fans of Colorado history have probably heard of the most significant Native American leaders — Black Kettle, Left Hand, White Antelope, One Eye, and so on — portraits from the era are frustratingly undocumented. It would be nice to be able to point at a particular picture and say with certainty that this fellow is White Antelope and that fellow is Neva, but it hasn’t happened so far and probably never will.
Case in point: Two important portraits were taken in the fall of 1864 of the “peace chiefs” who had come to Denver to talk peace with Chivington and Evans (fruitlessly, as it turned out). A stenographer was present at this session, so we know at least the following chiefs were present: Black Kettle, White Antelope, Bull Bear. We know Left Hand wasn’t there, and there’s no mention of One Eye being there.
Here’s the most famous portrait taken, focusing just on the fellows in the middle row:
Now, here’s how Colorado historians and authors identify these men:
Denver Public Library Western History: l. to rt.: 1. Neva (Arapaho), 2. Bull Bear (Cheyenne), 3. Black Kettle (Cheyenne), 4. One Eye (Cheyenne), 5. unidentified.
Hoig, The Sand Creek Massacre: l to r 1. White Antelope. 2. Neva. 3. Black Kettle. 4. Bull Bear. 5. unidentified.
Hoig, Peace Chiefs of the Cheyenne: l to r 1. White Antelope. 2. Bull Bear. 3. Black Kettle. 4. unidentified. 5. unidentified.
Ubbelohde/Benson/Smith, A Colorado History: Identifies Black Kettle and leaves the rest blank
Coel, Chief Left Hand: l to r. 1. White Antelope, 2. Bull Bear 3. Black Kettle, 4. Neva 5. No-ta-nee
Michno, Encyclopedia of Indian Wars: l to rt: 1. (left blank) 2. Bull Bear 3. Black Kettle. 4. Neva 5. White Antelope.
At Camp Weld, a second portrait was taken, the central figures shown below:
Here’s how Coel and Hoig identify them: .
Coel: seated l to rt. Neva, Black Kettle, Bull Bear, White Antelope.
Hoig: seated l to rt. Bull Bear, Black Kettle, Neva, White Antelope.
As you can see, there are a few consistencies (we know which one is Black Kettle anyway), but there is plenty of confusion as to who is who in the remaining cast of characters. It’s a pity, because these men played a critical role in Colorado history.
Cheyenne Chief One-Eye is a particular case in point. In the Denver Public Library historical photographs collection is a hand-drawn portrait of Chief One-Eye. If you examine the portrait, however, you’ll notice that the artist took certain liberties in creating the picture. It was obviously copied from the Camp Weld portrait –one of the above photographs — not drawn while Chief One Eye (killed at Sand Creek) was sitting for the artist. Furthermore, the “model” for the portrait was either Neva or Bull bear, depending on whom you ask:
One suspects that the artist decided this was One-Eye because one of the man’s eyes looks slightly off. However, One Eye is never quoted in the transcript, whereas he spoke at great length at an earlier council (the Smoky Hill council).