William M. Groethe is a professional photographer from Rapid City, South Dakota. He made the photographs on which my paintings are based at Custer State Park, South Dakota, where survivors from the Battle of the Little Big Horn met on September 2, 1948. Included in that project are Nicholas Black Elk, Comes Again, Dewey Beard, High Eagle, Iron Hawk, Little Warrior, Little Soldier, Pemmican, and John Sitting Bull (not himself a survivor).
Bill Groethe, a 77-year-old Rapid City photographer, has helped preserve American Indian history through his photos. He has donated many images to schools and colleges so that American Indian young people could learn about their ancestry.
Among his collection are portraits of the last nine survivors of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, photographs he took in 1948.
With little film left and a fading daylight, Groethe had the men sit on an apple crate with the sky in the background.
"I only have one shot of each, but they're all good," he said.
The photos hang in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
The last photograph taken was of Dewey Beard, whose Indian name was Iron Hail. He lived the longest of the survivors, and died Nov. 2, 1955.
The men didn't tell Groethe about the battle and he didn't pry."These were proud people that I photographed," Groethe said.
These photographs came into my possession due to an association with the now defunct Lakota Historical Society. I am rendering them as paintings, those, seen below: