In the early 1830's when George Catlin painted Hat-choo-tuck-nee ("The Snapping Turtle"), familiarly called Peter Pitchlynn by whites, the future Choctaw chief had already become a figure of influence. Having eradicated polygamy in his tribe and stopped the liquor traffic, Pitchlynn had been rewarded in the 1820's with election to the Choctaw National Council. In that capacity, helped select new lands for his people when they were moved west of the Mississippi.
Of mixed white and Indian ancestry, Pitchlynn was well educated in both traditions and served as an effective liaison with the federal government. Impressive in his bearing--"as stately and complete a gentleman of nature's making as ever I beheld," wrote Charles Dickens--he became principal chief in 1860 and served as representative of his tribe in Washington after the Civil War. A gifted orator, Pitchlynn addressed the President and several congressional committees in defense of Choctaw claims. He died in Washington, D.C., in 1881 and was buried in the Congressional Cemetery, where the Choctaw nation placed a monument in recognition of his service and allegiance to his people.