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Rain In the Face with Feather-Painting-Thom Ross-Sorrel Sky Gallery
Rain In the Face with Feather-Painting-Thom Ross-Sorrel Sky Gallery
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Rain In the Face with Feather

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acrylic, 36" x 36"
Lakota warrior who fought at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. There are several photos of Rain-in-the-Face and in each one he wears a smirk or a smile across his face which is in great contrast to how white artists often portray him today, wearing the cliched grimace and with the bulk of a linebacker, when in fact, he was slim and lithe. I wanted to show him as a human being, not a cliche.

His fame comes from a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem called The Revenge of Rain-in-the-Face … (in part)

In that desolate land and lone,
Where the Big Horn and Yellowstone
Roar down their mountain path …
"Revenge!" cried Rain-in-the-Face,
"Revenge upon all the race
Of the White Chief with Yellow Hair!” ...

This reference to the White Chief with Yellow Hair refers to General Custer. Rain was familiar with both General Custer and his brother, Tom, once having been arrested by Tom for being drunk in a saloon. Rain was so mad that he swore to cut out Tom Custer's heart if they ever met again. On June 25, 1876, they did meet the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Whether Rain recognized Tom is doubtful; intense battles are both dangerous and confusing. When Tom's body was found 3 days after the fight he wasn’t identified until they found a tell-tale tattoo of the Goddess of Liberty and the initials TWC - Thomas Ward Custer. However, there was no sign that his heart had been cut out, by Rain-in-the-Face or any other warrior. Late in his life, in a conversation with writer Charles Eastman, Rain-in-the-Face denied killing George Custer or mutilating Tom Custer.

When Longfellow wrote his poem, he took these facts and played around with them and, in the end, Rain does cut out a heart, but it is the heart of General Custer and not Rain's sworn enemy, Tom Custer. Longfellow records the deed:

But the foemen fled in the night,
And Rain-in-the-Face, in his flight,
Uplifted high in air
As a ghastly trophy, bore
The brave heart, that beat no more,
Of the White Chief with yellow hair.

Although not one of Longfellow's most lauded poems, it did elevate Rain in the Face in popularity across the nation. At one time he was found selling his autograph at Coney Island in New York! He was interviewed about the famous fight several times., always making sure not to offend his audience. He died in 1905.