Keeping History: Plains Indian Ledger Drawings

Keeping History

History can be kept and revealed in many ways. This exhibition features ledger drawings, a style of visual history, developed by Native warriors from the Northern and Southern Plains in the late 19th century. The visual style of the ledger drawing was developed out of a fusion of older documentary traditions, such as petroglyphs (on rock), pictographs (on bark and hide), and the newer media of ink, lead, colored pencil, paper and muslin. These drawings serve as valuable, first-hand biographical documentation of the personal and cultural histories of a Native people. This new synthesis of representational art told the stories of battles, bravery, and loss. They told of Native lives as hunters and horsemen of the Plains, and of the rich, ceremonial and cultural life of a people–a way of life much threatened by soldiers and settlers flooding into traditional lands. This exhibition features drawings, from ledger books, by some of those combatants in wars for sovereignty over the Plains, some of them made while their Native makers were imprisoned for their actions in those struggles. The exhibition also give examples of the influence of these drawings on contemporary Native art and history.