Mandan-Hidatsa hide painter Dennis Fox is the Director of the Independence Program for theThree Affiliated Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara) of Fort Berthold in New Town, North Dakota. He studied at the University of Maryland and worked for the Smithsonian Institution's Folklife Program in Washington, D.C. His interest in traditional Northern Plains hide painting developed during his youth in South Dakota and later in New Town. He realized that he wanted to know how to paint in the manner of his forebears and researched painting techniques at the North Dakota Heritage Center. His work is also in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History.
For "Framing the West at Monticello," Dennis recreated two well-documented pieces from Jefferson's collection that are no longer at Monticello: a pictographic battle robe that William Clark described in 1805 as "1 Buffalow robe painted by a Mandan man representing a battle which was faught 8 years since, by the Sioux & Ricaras, against the Mandans, Minitarras & Ahwahharways," and an Indian map painted on a hide that represented the Missouri River and its tributaries between the Platte and Yellowstone Rivers. In preparation for painting the battle robe, Dennis studied the famous pictographicbattle robe in the collection of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard. He also studied Indian cartographic techniques in books and learned about them from his tribal elders.
The hides Dennis painted were brain-tanned by Ken Woody, Director of Interpretation at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Crow Agency, Montana. In this traditional manner for preparing hides for painting, the skin is soaked in a solution that includes the animal's brain.