End of the Trail is a piece of art I don’t like.
The original was a sculpture by James Earle Fraser. It was commissioned by Clarence Shaler as a tribute to the Native American for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. It was moved to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City in 1968, where it’s currently on display. A painting of the work was on the cover of the 1971 Surf’s Up album by the Beach Boys.
The reason I don’t like the work is because it looks too depressing. Don’t get me wrong: as a work of art, it is a great piece. I just don’t like the message it sends.
Even the title, End of the Trail, suggests this is it for the North American Indian. There is no more going forward. On the other hand, the man on the horse could be texting. Hey, you never know because it was the Indian who invented wireless communication. OK, fine, it was smoke signals, but it’s still wireless.
I’ve met many aboriginal artists throughout the years and it seems like the End of the Trail painting is probably the most duplicated. I am by no means an artist, but even I tried my hand at making a replica. However, it didn’t work out because I put a smile on the man’s face.
Considering the amount of great works of art of the indigenous people of North America, End of the Trail is not a good reflection. It’s not the end, but the beginning for aboriginal people.
There will never be an end. It may be the end of an era, but with that comes a new beginning. It may be the end for that trail, but there are many other trails to be broken and followed. I prefer the trails that look to the future — positive trails that lead a nation in a bright direction.
I live on my home reserve. The community is affected by jealousy to a point where some on the rez don’t bother buying new vehicles because there are those who get jealous or they’ll start a rumour of how that person got money for a new truck or car.
There’s an old story of an Indian man and a white man walking along a beach. They both had pails and were collecting crabs. The white man noticed the crabs from his bucket kept crawling out, but this was not the case for the Indian.
“My crabs are Indian crabs,” the aboriginal man said. “Every time one tries to get over the top, the others pull it down.”
This is basically what happens, not only on my reserve, but other communities as well. This is how I view the End of the Trail piece. It’s almost like someone is waiting to push the rider and horse over the edge. That would be the end of the trail.