(Painted 1847.) Big Star Chief, a Medicine-man of the Spokanes. Whenever a person is sick, this tribe supposes that the spirit has left the body, and hovers invisibly in the air, until it can be charmed or brought back through the agency of the medicine-man. To accomplish this end, the patient is placed in a sitting posture, enveloped in a buffalo-robe, or other covering, having only the top of the head exposed. The medicine-man then commences dancing and singing around the patient, gesticulating mysteriously, and often clutching in the air with his hands, as if in the act of catching something. The spirit is supposed to be attracted by the chant, and to hover near the aperture at the top of the lodge; and the dance is often continued for an hour before it can be caught. It is then pressed and rubbed, as the medicine-man pretends, through the patient's skull, whose recovery, if not soon effected, he supposes to be thwarted by his having caught the spirit of some other person; and it then becomes necessary to undo his work by setting it at liberty, and repeating the performance until the right spirit is caught. . . . He possesses a countenance of great intelligence, and seemed to doubt my ability to transfer it correctly to the canvas. But the picture proved to be highly satisfactory, and he became my daily visitor, and acknowledged me to be "big medicine." [P. 70.]
Portraits of North American Indians, with Sketches of Scenery, etc., painted by J.M. Stanley. Deposited with the Smithsonian Institution. Washington: Smithsonian Institution. December, 1852.