Mato-tope holding a lance and wearing painted and quilled shirt: aquatint by Karl Bodmer from the book "Maximilian, Prince of Wied’s Travels in the Interior of North America, during the years 1832–1834"
Mato-Tope, Adorned with the insignia of his warlike deeds.: aquatint by Karl Bodmer from the book "Maximilian, Prince of Wied’s Travels in the Interior of North America, during the years 1832–1834"
Mato-tope (also known as Ma-to-toh-pe or Four Bears, from mato "bear" and tope "four") (c.1795 - July 30, 1837) was the second chief of the Mandan tribe to be known to whites as "Four Bears", a name he earned after charging the Assiniboine tribe during battle with the strength of four bears. Four Bears lived in the first half of the 19th century on the upper Missouri River in what is now North Dakota. Four Bears was a favorite subject of artists, painted by George Catlin and Karl Bodmer. Among his people he was a brave warrior, famous for killing a Cheyenne chief in hand-to-hand combat. He became friends with artist Karl Bodmer in 1833, and became chief in the year 1836. Around that time, a smallpox epidemic wiped out most of his tribe, leaving 125 survivors out of a population of formerly 1,600. He died on July 30, 1837 after suffering from smallpox, brought to his tribe by whites. Before his own death, he lost his wife and children to the disease, and as recorded in his last speech to the Arikara and Mandan (two neighboring tribes) he denounced the white man, whom he had previously treated as a brother, for deliberately bringing the disease to his people. Four Bears lamented that in death his scarred face would be so ugly even the wolves would turn away from him. Smallpox wiped out more than 80 percent of the Mandan population in only a few months, and they were not the only tribe to suffer from the disease. Many believed that he died of smallpox, but George Catlin claimed that he starved himself to death out of grief from the death of his family.