Seth and Mary Eastman were instrumental in recording much of Native American life through Seth's paintings and Mary's prose and poetry. When nearing his retirement as Brigadier General in the United States Army, Seth Eastman was commissioned by the congress to produce a series of paintings for the Bureau of Indian Affairs through that day's version of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Mary Henderson Eastman wrote many books and poems including Aunt Phillis's Cabin which was an antithesis to Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Seth Eastman used color and realism to depict Dacotah (Dakota), Sioux and other Native American scenes that lacked the Anglo-centric stereotyping and dillution found in other paintings within that genre. One controversial painting was Death Whoop which was censored twice. He was commissioned by the House Committee on Military Affairs to paint seventeen images of important forts. These paintings were completed between 1870 and 1875. They were returned to the Capitol Builing for public display in the 1930s.
Together, the Eastmans produced Dahcotah: Life and Legends of the Sioux based on their experience at Fort Snelling in what became the Minnesota Territory.