Fourth Stop

Black Indian, Buffalo Soldier

1998 055 V0001
Bernard Williams, (American, b. 1964), Black Indian, Buffalo Soldiers, 1996, Acrylic on canvas. Purchased through the Friends of the Snite Museum of Art fund in honor of Rev. Anthony S. Lauck, C.S.C., 1998.055.

This work, executed by Chicago-based artist Bernard Williams, tells the story of an oft-overlooked piece of American history. The piece contains symbols which merge together Native American and African American cultures, referencing the role that these two groups played in the development of the mid-western and western United States. More specifically, in the post-Civil War era, six all-black military units protected settlers worked to establish roads, railroads, and forts, earning the name “Buffalo Soldiers” from the Native Americans they encountered. With its complex iconography and composition, this painting implies a rich history of both conflict and collaboration often left out of the American narrative. The same can be said of our own university’s history, which has deep ties to local Native American groups. Father Badin, the first priest ordained in the United States, purchased this land from the Potawatomi people in order to establish an orphanage and mission, paving the way for Fr. Sorin to establish a university on the site. The university’s founders fostered a close relationship with this Native American group, yet their presence is often difficult to find in most retellings of Notre Dame’s history. However, by viewing objects such as this one in the university’s art collection, our community can gain a better understanding of this collaboration crucial to Notre Dame’s past and present. 

**For your final stop, head back towards the stairs and take in a monumental Civil War scene rich with Notre Dame history. Scan the QR code to learn about this depiction of the original  Fighting Irish. **