Ledger shows intimate history of Sioux warrior Red Hawk
GERING, Neb. (AP) — Ledger books were most commonly used to keep track of accounting, but they also had another purpose. Many American Indians drew pictures and scenes from life inside their pages, creating a unique account of history. Some of that work can be seen in a temporary exhibit at the Legacy of the Plains Museum.
One such ledger drawn by Lakota Sioux Red Hawk contains colorful drawings of life as a Sioux. Many of the drawings are of himself.
“I think it’s great he drew himself and not just once. He did it several times,” Amanda Gibbs, director of the Legacy of the Plains Museum, told the Star-Herald reported. “It’s nice that it’s not just drawings of his buddies.”
On loan from the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne, “The Miller Collection of Sioux Indian Ledger Art,” the drawings on display are actual-sized replica copies from a leather bound ledger book purchased by the Milwaukee Public Museum. The leather-bound ledger was purchased in 1900 by the Milwaukee museum.
According to the inscription inside the book, it was, “captured from the Sioux Indians by Capt. R. Miller on Wounded Creek, South Dakota Jan. 8th, 1891, and is a history of the Ghost Dance and the shirts worn by the Indians in the Ghost Dance. Was painted by a Sioux warrior whose name was Red Hawk and is a correct History of the Book.”
Art found in these leather books was typically done in inks and crayons creating brighter and more varied coloring than the earth colors typically used in traditional leather paintings. As such the scenes are colorful, sometimes graphic, depictions of war, creating a warrior image of the Sioux fighting in battle. There are a few drawings, such as an “Indian Riding a Horse with an Umbrella,” which depicts a more quiet life rather than war.
The exhibit has 36 scenes of a total of 116, drawn by the Red Hawk. In addition to warfare, the scenes also show horse stealing, peace councils, the use of Ghost Dance shirts and warriors returning to their wives. In many scenes, the warriors names are written above their heads.
While depictions of war make up 58 percent of the collection, horse stealing, which would command respect if successful, make up an additional 31 percent.
Native American art in ledger books can be found in several collections around the country. Many were recovered from battlefields.
Gibbs said it was believed that if you took the ledger book with you, it would be good luck. American Indians were often given such ledgers to draw in after being imprisoned for participating in activities such as the Ghost Dance.
“Red Hawk likely had it when he probably died,” she said. “Days later, as the cavalry was cleaning up after a battle, it was picked up.”
The Sioux Ledger artwork will be on display in the Community Room at the Legacy of the Plains Museum until Dec. 18.
Information from: Star-Herald, http://www.starherald.com