Chief Poundmaker portrait sells at auction for double estimated value

A painting of the 19th century Cree leader Chief Poundmaker by P.E.I. artist Robert Harris, best known for his portrait of the Fathers of Confederation, sold at auction this week.

The portrait sold for $204,000. (Waddington’s Auctioneers and Appraisers)

The portrait, called Indian Chief of the North West, Canada, sold for $204,000. Waddington’s Auctioneers and Appraisers had estimated its value at $80,000 to $120,000

Poundmaker was convicted of treason-felony in 1885 in connection with the Northwest Rebellion. He was exonerated in May by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In a letter to his mother Harris called the hanging of Louis Riel a “barbarous murder,” and his sympathy appears to have extended to Poundmaker as well.

“He’s not being painted like a specimen, the way so many Indigenous people were painted by white colonists,” said Waddington’s VP Stephen Ranger.

“He was painted more as a very noble figure, a peacemaker and a very important symbol for his people.”

After his treason conviction, Poundmaker fell ill while in prison at Stoney Mountain Penitentiary and died in 1886 shortly after being released.

Ranger called the portrait one of Harris’s most significant works. It had been in the same family since being acquired from the artist in 1886.

He said the painting will remain in Canada and will hopefully be displayed for the public in the near future.

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