Catlin and his contemporaries, however, did not see the economic and cultural relations that bound the Native American to the European. Instead, the Indian, an innocent primitive, untouched by the corruptions of European society, was proclaimed "the chief exponent of natural law, the one splendid example who remained close to God's image of mankind."

The perfect subject for an ethnographic spectacle.

Catlin's portraits made the grand tour of the European continent, where he was accompanied by a troupe of twenty white men, who acted out staged recreations of Indian dances and rituals. The troupe was eventually replaced by Ojibwa and Iowa Indians, much to the pleasure of their European audiences.