Plenty Coups c. 18481932

Willem Wildschut (18831955)
Gelatin silver print, c. 1921

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; gift of the Ruth and Vernon Taylor Foundation, Beatrice and James Taylor

A celebrated warrior as a young man, Plenty Coups played a crucial role in leading the Crow during the difficult transition to reservation life. As a chief, Plenty Coups stressed the importance of education as a means to maintain tribal integrity and urged his people to become self-sufficient farmers. Although he converted to Catholicism, he revered and sought to carry on the religion and traditional folkways of the Crow.

Plenty Coups is thought to have posed for this photograph at the outset of his 1921 trip to Washington, D.C. On that occasion he served as the Native American representative at the burial of the unknown soldier of World War I at Arlington National Cemetery. Three years later, in part because of the Native contribution to the war effort, the landmark Indian Citizenship Act was passed.