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Ledger Book Drawing

Arts of the Americas

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.
MEDIUM Ink, crayon, paper
  • Possible Place Collected: Darlington, Missouri, United States
  • DATES ca. 1890
    DIMENSIONS 6 7/8 x 13 3/8in. (17.5 x 34cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
    ACCESSION NUMBER 1992.27.1
    CREDIT LINE Gift of The Roebling Society
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION The ledger drawing scene shows a Native man on a charging horse, clubbing a soldier with a tomahawk weapon. The Native (possibly Cheyenne) has on decorated leggings; his hair wrapped with an elaborate headpiece with a whole bird on top of his head and a flowing trailer alongside of it . The soldier, caught between the legs of the horse, wears a blue army uniform and brandishes a pistol.There is the outline of a wagon in the lower left. 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 .
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Possibly Cheyenne. Ledger Book Drawing, ca. 1890. Ink, crayon, paper, 6 7/8 x 13 3/8in. (17.5 x 34cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of The Roebling Society, 1992.27.1 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1992.27.1_SL1.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 1992.27.1_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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