Ledger Art evolved from Plains Indian hide painting. Traditionally Plains tribes decorated tipis, leggings, buffalo robes, shields and other clothing items with depictions of life events. The figures were usually drawn with a hard, dark outline and then filled in with color. The painting was done with bone or wood sticks that were dipped in naturally-occurring pigments.
The women of the tribes often made designs while the men depicted scenes of war, hunting, other personal feats or historic events. Besides battles, the changing lifestyle of the Plains Indians and infusion of Euro-Americans was documented in the art – trains, covered wagons, guns, and even cameras.
Ledger art began in the 1860s and continued to the 1930s and is experiencing a revival with a few contemporary Lakota artists today. It is called ledger art because instead of the paintings being on buffalo hides (which had become scarce from near extinction of the vast buffalo herds) the drawings were done on paper, often ledger book paper that was discarded by government agents, military officers, traders or missionaries. In addition to the new paper format, Plains artists also had access to pencils, pens, crayons and watercolor paints.
Noted Lakota artists include Black Hawk and Sitting Bull. Black Hawk, in an effort to feed his family during the very harsh winter of 1880-81, agreed to draw a series of 76 pieces of art for an Indian trader that depicted one of Black Hawk’s visions. He was paid 50 cents a drawing. That book of 76 drawings sold in 1994 for nearly $400,000 dollars. Although not technically ledger art since the drawings were on new lined paper, not ledger paper, Black Hawk’s work are one of the finest examples of that style of Lakota art. Two examples of that series are shown below.
Contemporary Lakota artist Alan Monroe uses traditional ledger-style designs on rabbit skins.
Native American Ceremonial Sticks
© 2011 Horsekeeping © Copyright Information
There are many types of sticks used in Native American ceremonies. The hai detoi is a stick of madrona wood with feathers on one end and a flint on the other – it is used by a Pomo (Northern California) shaman during healing ceremonies.
A hatcamuni is an Acoma Pueblo prayer stick. It is made by the individual (or an individual’s family member) that is requesting healing. It is cut from a live willow or cedar, may be notched or painted and might have feathers attached to it.
The Zuni bundle up a group of prayer sticks, kaetcine, offer them up to the spirits and then bury or deposit them in a prescribed location.
Lakota Horse Stick – To the Lakota and other Plains Indians, the horse was a working partner that provided transportation when moving, and a heroic companion on hunts and raids and in battle.
When a warrior lost a horse, he would honor the horse by making a horse stick. The effigy would represent the likeness of the horse and be decorated with markings and adornments that recounted the life and achievements of the horse.
The horse stick would then be carried by the warrior in dances to pay tribute to the great horse before other tribal members, most notably those of the Horse Society. By making and carrying the stick, it was hoped that the spirit of the horse would follow the warrior in life and give him added strength and power.
The horse stick was usually made of wood and decorated with paint, leather, fur, feathers, beads and other items.
NATIVE AMERICAN CEREMONIAL AND DANCE RATTLES
© 2010 Cherry Hill
Native American rattles have been and are used for many purposes including healing and other medicine uses, dancing for ceremony and celebration, commemorating birth and more. To First Nations people, shakers or rattles represent rain (for prayers of abundance and prosperity) and tears, especially those of emotional release. Tears of joy signifying when the mind, body, soul and spirit connect. Ceremonially, rattles are used in cleansing and purifying, spiritual guidance work, celebration and in thanks and respect to Ancestral Spirits.
Rattles can be made of many materials including deer and elk hooves, rawhide, turtle shells, gourds, wood, buffalo parts (horn, hump bone, scrotum) bones, horns and antlers of all kinds, leather (cowhide, buckskin, elkskin).
The rattling items are either inside or outside. Rattles such as gourds might have small items inside such as beans, corn, small stones, or even the seeds native to the gourd itself.
Rattles with external sound makers are adorned with pieces of metal, tinkle cones, bells, beads and more.
Generally, medicine rattles are made entirely of natural materials and the sound is more muted. Dance rattles are made of almost any materials, natural and otherwise. In fact, unusual items such as pieces of scrap metal, coins and other resonating materials are used to create a loud, crisp sound. Dance rattles are often made like a coup stick, using bone or wood with a handle on the end.
Lakota Horse Stick
The horse stick is a Lakota Sioux tradition used to honor a specific horse. Carved from bone and painted, the horses were then adorned with feathers, horse hair, animal claws and other items.
The horse stick pendant (above) made from bone was hand carved and painted by Lonny and Michelle Cloud.