Thanks. This painting is a tribute to Gouyen, meaning "Wise Woman," who was born into Chief Victorio's Warm Springs Apache band around 1880.
One day, while the group was resting at Tres Castillos, New Mexico, they were attacked by Mexicans. When the offensive was over, seventy-eight Apaches had been murdered and only seventeen had escaped, including Gouyen and her young son, Kaywaykla. Her baby daughter, however, was murdered and shortly afterwards her husband was killed in a Comanche raid while visiting the Mescalero Apaches. A legendary tale is told about the revenge of Gouyen. One night following her husband's death, she left the camp carrying a water jug, dried meat, and a bone awl and sinew for repairing her moccasins. She was looking for the Comanche chief who had killed her husband. Finally, she found him engaged in a victory dance around a bonfire with her husband's scalp hanging from his belt. Gouyen slipped into the circle of dancers, seduced the chief, and killed him with his own knife, avenging her husband's death. Then she scalped him, cut his beaded
eechcloth from his body and tore off his moccasins. She then returned to her camp to present her in-laws with the Comanche leader's scalp, his clothing and his footwear. Gouyen remarried an Apache warrior named Ka-ya-ten-nae. Later, she and her family were taken prisoners by the U.S. Army and held at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where she died.
The painting depicts Gouyen dressed in a regular camp dress worn in the days when it was crucial to keep a low profile as not to attract attention. She did her heroic vengeful deed to a known chief but must maintain dignity in humility due to certain repercussions. Nothing in her expression alerts the viewer that the loss of lives of those close to her has taken place in her life. For the Apaches, signs of weakness were the mark of instability, nor did they boast of their triumphant actions but took it to heart that it was part of the way of life. The sunrays emitting from behind the rocks translates a new day for her and her blanket the sense of security she feels among her people in the rugged terrain of her homeland, the Southwest.