compassion for the enemy
2010, oil, 34"h x 48"w
Intertribal trade had flourished long before the exploration of the Upper Missouri by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. In 1739, the French trader La Verendrye recorded in his journals that various tribes came from every direction to visit the trading centers on the Missouri River. The destination was the semi-permanent villages of the Mandan-Hidatsa and Aikara tribes. In effect, the Mandan-Hidatsa tribes located near Knife River in present day North Dakota were stiff competitors of the Arikara, whose villages were down river nearly two hundred miles. These two trading groups were not unaccustomed to hostile clashes with each other.
There was a story of a young Mandan who discovered a wounded Arikara warrior after a fight between men of the two tribes. She felt pity for the man and resolved to give him aid. This included attending to his wounds and providing food and a horse to return to his people. Because of this gesture of compassion, both aggressive tribes resolved their disputes and went on to create an amicable and lasting agreement together. Knowing that such acts were rare among primitive people vying for advantage and territory, Z.S. Liang became intrigued by the story. The universal truth of forgiveness in conflict resolution became the inspiration for this painting.