David Humphreys Miller was more than an
artist, he was a foremost authority on American Indian and Western
history. Famous for his portraits, from life, of 72 Indians who survived
the Battle of the Little Big Horn (Custer's Last Stand, June 25, 1876).
In order to get the true story, he interviewed them in their own
language and became their close and personal friend.
He started this work when he was barley
sixteen years old, but as a third generation artist he already was an
accomplished painter. With his family's blessing he started his work in
1935 and spent every summer finding these old warriors and painted them
until 1942, when he went into the service for World War ll. When he came
back from his service in the air corps, in China, there were only about
20 of these old-timers left.
His collection of Custer
Survivors has been exhibited throughout the United States in many
prestigious museums. In 1972, Miller won the coveted Western Heritage
Award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center
in Oklahoma City. The following year the collection was exhibited there.
These portraits have also been shown at The
Whitney Western Museum, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody,
Wyoming, the Museum of Man in San Diego, California, Midland, Texas,
Toledo, Ohio. The High Plains Heritage Center in Spearfish, South
Dakota, where he received the Lifetime Achievement Award, to name a few
of his honors.
His mural commissions
include those at Mount Rushmore (now in the Civic Center in Rapid
City, South Dakota) and The Citadel, Charleston, South Carolina, the
latter under the personal auspices of General Mark W. Clark. Miller
designed the Northern Plains Indian Museum and the Fur Trade and
Wildlife Museum at Medora, North Dakota.
Miller also was Indian
technical advisor on many pictures such as "Cheyenne Autumn" and
"How The West Was Won". He appeared on television as host to "Cavalcade
of Books", in Los Angeles, California. He wrote several books, including
"Ghost Dance" and "Custer's Fall", which was a Book of the Month Club
selection and was the first time the story that the Custer Battle had
been told from the Indians' point of view.
his later years Miller and his wife, Jan, lived in Rancho Santa
Fe, California, where he continued to write and paint until his death
August 21, 1992.
He was a good friend of our First Americans
and many of them came to visit him in his home. He also was a close
friend of Korezak Ziolkowski, who had the dream to carve "Crazy Horse"
(the one who defeated Custer) on a mountain in the Black Hills of South
Miller arranged the last reunion of the
Custer Survivors (only eight were alive) at the dedication of the "Crazy
Horse Memorial", June 3, 1948.
His widow is still living in Rancho Santa