[A CHEYENNE WARRIOR VIEWS A CAVALRY TROOPER HE HAS JUST KILLED AND MUTILATED]; A vivid piece of ledger art depicting a warrior and his horse standing over a dead cavalry guidon-bearer whose right hand he has chopped-off. Unidentified artist.
[A CHEYENNE WARRIOR VIEWS A CAVALRY TROOPER HE HAS JUST KILLED AND MUTILATED]; A vivid piece of ledger art depicting a warrior and his horse standing over a dead cavalry guidon-bearer whose right hand he has chopped-off
[A CHEYENNE WARRIOR VIEWS A CAVALRY TROOPER HE HAS JUST KILLED AND MUTILATED]; A vivid piece of ledger art depicting a warrior and his horse standing over a dead cavalry guidon-bearer whose right hand he has chopped-off

[A CHEYENNE WARRIOR VIEWS A CAVALRY TROOPER HE HAS JUST KILLED AND MUTILATED]; A vivid piece of ledger art depicting a warrior and his horse standing over a dead cavalry guidon-bearer whose right hand he has chopped-off

Probably Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian Reservation in the Indian Territory, or Fort Robinson in Nebraska, of Fort Keough-Tongue River Reservation in Montana: Circa 1880-1900. Unbound. This piece of ledger art measures 11” x 14”. It is drawn on a ledger page from the Cleveland and Mahoning Valley Railway Company dated 1879. The drawing is done in black ink and colored pencil. Colors remain vivid and the drawing is in nice shape, although the ledger page shows some wear and several fold separations have near invisible archival mends. The work’s style, coloring, and depicted dress and weapons closely match those of Cheyenne art ledgers in the collection of the Plains Indian Art Project at the University of California at San Diego.

The work's focal point is a warrior and his horse in the center of the page. The warrior is wrapped tightly in a multicolored trade blanket that covers most of his black breechcloth and blue leggings made from captured cavalry trousers. This, plus the frosted breath coming from his mouth, suggest that the fight took place during cold weather. His bow and arrow lie nearby and his war lance with black-tipped eagle feathers (attached by a strip of red cloth) stands upright next to his buckskin stallion.

The horse is unpainted with its tail unwrapped and furnished simply with only a blanket and lariat-loop war bridle. It stands still, as trained to do, when its reins are lifted over its head and allowed to hang loose. The paucity of hoofprints in the scene suggest that the scene does not depict a major battle but rather one of the hundreds of minor skirmishes with the Army that took place in the upper plains.

The dead soldier, still bleeding from arrows that have pierced his chest and thigh, is surrounded by his cap, pistol, canteen, guidon, and severed right hand. That the soldier bears only minimal mutilation is likely significant.

As noted by historians, tribe members, and cavalry officers, peri- and post-mortem mutilation of vanquished enemies was not only done to inflict pain or terror; it also had a practical, spiritual purpose. The Plains tribes generally believed that people would enter the afterlife just as the were when they died. For that reason, warriors mutilated their victims to hinder their enemies whom they expected to seek vengeance in the spirit world. While the mutilations were often severe, in this case the warrior has only chopped off the soldiers right hand. There are contemporary reports from both soldiers and warriors that minimal mutilation might be done if the dead had fought well and valiantly. In this case, while the soldier’s spirit would not be able to pull a trigger or wield a sabre, it could otherwise enjoy its post-worldly existence.

Two significant symbols complete the drawing. A blue “morning star” is in the upper right, and a buffalo skill in in the lower left. The morning star, on of several different versions, symbolizes courage, purity of spirit, and, for adherents of the Ghost Dance, the restoration of the dead to fight with the living and destroy the white colonists, bringing peace and prosperity. Buffalo skulls signify self-sacrifice and the promise of a blessing. Very good. Item #009621

Ledger art provides first-person narratives of Western history for a Plains Indian perspective. The drawings were done by warriors for themselves and their own use, and the scenes declare, “I was there and this is what happened.”

First-person artworks produced by the warriors who fought during Plains Wars almost all share several characteristics: a lack of perspective with no frame of background reference, movement from right to left, and, most importantly, egocentrism with the artist-author being the focus of the drawing. Horses appear in most works, testifying to the men’s life as horsemen.

Many works focus on hunting and courtship, but the most prized center on “glory-days” memories of warfare and a warrior's deeds and exploits, e.g., attacking, killing, and counting coup.

Plains warriors began creating these works in the 1860s when Buffalo herds diminished, and hide painting was replaced by paper, cloth, or canvas. By the 1880s, when reservation-life became prevalent, the former warriors had much time on their hands and Indian agents encouraged them to create these works to fill their days. The most prevalent source materials were old or new ledger books, ink, colored pencils, and watercolors provided agents, traders, and the army.

For more information on ledger art and Plains tribe warfare, see the USCD Plains Indian Art Project online, “Ledger Art in Historical Context” at the Texas Beyond History website, “Keeping History: Plains Indian Ledger Drawings” at the Smithsonian Institution online, “Native American Symbols” at the Native American Tribes website, Haynes’s UNLV master’s thesis, Massacre, Memoir, and Myth. . ., Scott’s Uncovering History: The Legacy of Archaeological Investigation at the Little Bighorn Battlefield. . ., Mooney’s The Ghost Dance Religion. . ., “Sacred Buffalo” on-line at the Akta-Lakota Museum, and “Buffalo Skull Meaning” online at Skull Bliss. Many examples of ledger art are held by institutions and private collectors; however, demand exceeds supply, especially for less-common scenes like this one that exalt in a warrior’s victory over a mutilated white soldier.

Price: $1,250.00

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