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
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Possibly Cheyenne (Native American). Ledger Book Drawing, ca. 1890. Ink, crayon, paper, 6 7/8 x 13 3/4 in. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of The Roebling Society, 1992.27.2 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1992.27.2_SL1.jpg)
overall, 1992.27.2_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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The scene depicted shows the fight between a Native warrior (possibly Cheyenne) and a non-native person. The warrior is wearing long leggings with a stripe and a blue shirt. Two feathers are on his head. He is carrying a shield with a circular design decorated with feathers and using a long decorated spear. His horse, that he is riding barebacked, has his tail bobbed, dyed and possibly wrapped for battle.
The non-native person has been unseated and is falling off his saddled horse. He wears a black coat over checkered pants. His derby style hat has fallen off his head.
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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