Ledger Book Drawing
Arts of the Americas
On View: American Art Galleries, 5th Floor, Nations Divided, 1860–1910
Depicting the Indian Wars
As gold and land lured non-Native settlers westward, Native Americans fought for their homelands in fierce battles with the U.S. Army, as depicted here. Government pogroms attempted to wipe out Native peoples by deliberately spreading disease and by killing off the life-sustaining buffalo and native sheep. Native warriors, who had traditionally depicted their battles on hide shirts and tipi liners in the 1800s, co-opted ledger books from government agents to draw their war experiences.
General Custer’s 1876 defeat at the Battle of Little Big Horn in Montana and other Native victories were overshadowed by relentless U.S. Army massacres in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including the famous one at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1890. The wars continued until all Native peoples were driven onto reservations.
Ink, crayon, paper
Gift of The Roebling Society and A. Augustus Healy Fund
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Cheyenne (Native American). Ledger Book Drawing, ca. 1890. Ink, crayon, paper, 8 1/2 x 14 in. (21.6 x 35.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of The Roebling Society and A. Augustus Healy Fund, 1992.27.3 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1992.27.3_SL1.jpg)
overall, 1992.27.3_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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The battle scene on this ledger drawing is briefly as follows: The Warrior has been wounded in the chest and is bleeding from his mouth as he lies on the ground. He wears a full length eagle headdress with a non-native styled coat with buttons. His war lance lies alongside of him. His horse is also wounded in the side in front of the saddle and is bleeding from his nose. Five army men are attacking the warrior as they lay on the ground all firing you can see the bullets fly over the rear of the horse and the spurts from their guns.
These drawings are done by tearing out paper from ledger books that were used by army and reservation post managers as a substitute for using hides- the traditional medium for such drawings.
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