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Three Worlds Meet
The Trapper’s Bride by Rex Allen Norman
© 2013 James LaFond
Published in the November/December 2013 Issue of Muzzleloader Magazine, The Far West column, pages 33-37
The magazine link is on our network page.
The Trapper’s Bride is a study of the famous painting of the same name by Alfred Jacob Miller, who showed the painting to titillated audiences in Baltimore in 1845. It was based on a scene he witnessed at a fur trapper rendezvous in 1837. Not only does Rex do a nice analysis of the societal aspects reflected [and preserved] in this painting, but he provides his own black and white sketch of the painting.
I have taken some heat for fiction I did [Of The Sunset World] in which successful men sometimes find themselves married to more than one Native American woman. We are supposed to obscure this fact for the PC Native American feminist crowd. But, fiendish apostate that I am, find it quite interesting on a few counts.
First, as Rex points out, these women had real relationships with their husbands, and were not just possessions. They were also highly valued because they were more than what a modern mate is expected to be. These Indian wives acted as interpreters, camp managers and butchers, among other things. They also did not take a lot of shit from their men. If you were a mountain man who could afford two wives, and for some reason you wanted multiple people nagging you all the live-long day, you must first get the permission to marry from the first wife, who then becomes the senor wife, with another person under her tent flap to boss around.
Secondly, when jilted by faithless husbands, these women were known to favor the blade! Dude, you think child support is a bitch, don’t cut out on your Shoshone wife in midwinter!
Modern women will likely be horrified that these brides were sold to the trappers by their fathers. However, it generally seemed to be a status enhancing arrangement for the young lady.
Rex wrote an insightful and well-footnoted article and produced a beautiful sketch to go with it. I hope to see more from him.
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