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When asked about his painting Mixed Company, Howard Terpning said his thought was to create a situation that might have occurred in the early West. Fate had offered two strangers, one a Blackfeet and the other of mixed blood, maybe a French/Cree, a chance meeting. Perhaps the conversation would be in sign language or maybe each would know a few words in the other’s tongue they could understand. Was there game ahead? Is the trail still passable? Are there furs to trade? It was a time of trappers and trade with each trying to gain advantage over the other.

Elmer Kelton wrote, “By and large early traders got along well enough with the many Indian tribes because they brought goods the Indians wanted, trading them for furs and buffalo robes. Many, by their nature loners or at least resistant to the restraints of ‘civilized’ society, fell easily into the Indian way of living. In a sense they became Indians themselves, often marrying into one tribe or another. Out of such unions came the French-Indian halfblood Metis of Montana and Canada. Though France lost its hold on the New World after the French and Indian War, experienced Frenchmen as individual voyageurs and coureurs de bois continued to trade among the Indians, on their own or working for former rivals in the English companies.”

The Artist
Troy Murray Gallery 1978
Private Collection, NJ

Elmer Kelton, The Art of Howard Terpning, (Trumbull, CT: The Greenwich Workshop, Inc., 1992), p 98, illustrated

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