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Rockpile opens exhibit on artwork of 19th century U.S. Army officer who lived among Dakotas

The sign for the Rockpile Museum on U.S. 14 -16. (Ryan Lewallen/County 17)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Campbell County Rockpile Museum is now displaying a traveling exhibit of 1850s vintage engravings a 19th century U.S. Army officer created following his experiences of living with the Dakotas.

The “Re-Visioning Seth Eastman: Officer Artist Among the Dakotas” exhibit hails from the Lee Silliman Print Collection of Missoula, Montana. Dee Garceau, Ph. D., curated the exhibit during her time as a visiting instructor in history at the University of Montana, the news release said.

Eastman was stationed at Fort Snelling in the Minnesota Territory from 1830 to 1831 and from 1841 to 1848 on behalf of American traders, missionaries and settlers.

“At the same time, he respected the eastern Dakotas who called this region home,” the release stated. “As an artist, Eastman painted scenes of Dakota life that revealed his high regard for their culture. He sketched them visiting, working, traveling, and playing sports. Eastman portrayed the Dakotas’ ingenuity, conviviality, artistry, industry, and dignity.”

The exhibit includes 50 vintage lithographs printed in the 1850s. Many are hand-tinted.

“This exhibit creates a dialogue between Native and Euro-American points of view,” the release stated. “Knowledge shared by Dakota elders with non-native publishers and scholars provide Dakota perspectives and nuance. Cultural context materials were prepared by a professional historian with a background in the history of American frontier culture.”

The museum will hold a free exhibit opening event and documentary film screening at 6 p.m. June 14. At 6:30 p.m., the museum will show the award-winning documentary “Seth Eastman: Painting the Dakota.” Twin Cities Public Television and Afton Historical Society Press produced the film, which tells about Eastman’s life and the traditions of the Dakota by sharing his artwork, essays and interviews with Dakota elders.

Museum admission will be charged to view the exhibit on other dates. To learn more, visit the Museum’s website at www.rockpilemuseum.com or call 307-682-5723.

The exhibit will be on display through November, the release said.

Correction: Seth Eastman did not serve in the Civil War. He was on disability during the 1860s and retired from the Army officially in 1863, and in the 1870s, the U.S. government re-commissioned him to have complete drawings and paintings regarding Washington, D.C., where he was residing at the time, Campbell County Rockpile Museum Museum Educator Stephan Zacharias said May 27.