Lakota Ledger Art

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.

Unknown artist Ledger Art

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.

Unknown artist Ledger Art

 

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.

Ledger Paper medium


An 1884 crayon ledger drawing by Lakota artist Red Dog honoring the valor of a warrior named Low Dog.

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.

Black Hawk Ledger Art

Black Hawk Ledger Art

Contemporary Lakota artist Alan Monroe uses traditional ledger-style designs on rabbit skins.

Ledger-style Art on Rabbit Skin by Lakota artist Alan Monroe

 

Ledger-style Art on Rabbit Skin by Lakota artist Alan Monroe

 

Ledger-style Art on Rabbit Skin by Lakota artist Alan Monroe


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Authenticity of Native American Jewelry

The authenticity of each jewelry item and artifact that we sell on Horsekeeping.com is confirmed in person by us or by our partners to be Native American made. We deal mainly with Native American Indian artists located in New Mexico and Arizona (the heart of Navajo, Hopi, Santo Domingo and Zuni country) and South Dakota (Oglala Lakota).

Grandmother Pin by Justin Wilson, Zuni

 

In many cases, we purchase directly from the artists themselves. Buying in person allows us not only to confirm authenticity, but also to hand select the finest pieces, the best stones, and to learn interesting details about the people who make the jewelry.

Pilot Mountain Turquoise Sterling Silver Bracelet by Navajo Donovan Cadman

 

Gift shops and the Internet are experiencing a great increase in items being misrepresented as Native American jewelry. Jewelry that “looks Indian” but is made in China or the Philippines is NOT Native American made and legally cannot be called Native American. Yet it often is! These imported knockoffs hurt legitimate sellers and Native American craftspeople who are being forced out of the jewelry business because of the low prices charged for the fakes.

10 Strand Heishi Necklace by Janice Tenorio, Santo Domingo

 

If authenticity is important to you, buy only from reputable sellers who offer genuine Native American made merchandise. We at Horsekeeping.com only sell 100% authentic Native American made items where it says Native American on the website. When something is NOT Native American made, we make sure you know that by calling it a Reproduction or putting it in our non-Native American section called the Bargain Barn.

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 states that “it is illegal to offer or display for sale, or sell any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian tribe.”

Every item we offer as Native American section is in full compliance with this act.

Catlinite Buffalo Pipe by Alan Monroe, Oglala Lakota

 

Certificates of Authenticity. Legally, only the artist who makes a piece can fill out and sign a Certificate of Authenticity (COA). Therefore, for us to send you a generic certificate serves no purpose. Only about a half dozen of the artists that we purchase from provide COAs. Of the rest, many of them sign or put a hallmark on their pieces. Some do not. Buying direct from the artist or from reputable sellers is your main assurance that the Native American item you purchase is Native American made.

Horse Spirit Medicine Bag by Cynthia Whitehawk, Apache

 


 

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The Sacred Talking Prayer Feather of the Dine’ (Navajo)

The Dine’, more commonly known as the Navajo, is the largest American Indian nation in North America.

The Sacred Talking Prayer Feather is part of their creation stories and teachings.

 

Sacred Talking Prayer Feather by Alan Nash, Navajo

 

 

 

Feathers are beings and represent many beliefs. These beings, as birds and their feathers, are used to guide and control a person’s mind and body.

 

The eagle helps to heal and guide; the eagle’s feathers represent faith, hope, courage and strength. The eagle feather is called the Sacred Talking Prayer Feather and is used in various ceremonies for physical as well as social healing.

At one time, eagle feathers were put in a moccasin to protect the wearer and give guidance and swiftness.

 

Because it is illegal to own or sell eagle feathers, today Sacred Talking Prayer Feathers and other Native American feathers and fans are made using natural turkey feathers or white turkey feathers than have been hand painted to look like an eagle feather.

 

Hand Painted Feather Hair Tie by Alan Monroe, Oglala Lakota

 

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Native American Pipes – The Sacred Pipe

The Sacred Pipe
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The pipe figures into Native American culture in many ways and for each culture there are different uses and traditions. The intent of this article is not to provide a comprehensive explanation of the sacred significance of the pipe in Native American cultures, but to just offer a brief idea of how pipes have been and are used by Native Americans.

On first contact with Native Americans, the French used the word “calumet” [from the Latin “calamus”, for reed] to refer to the sacred pipe. Early pipes of the Miami and Illinois were hollow canes decorated with feathers.

The Lakota sacred pipe, the chanunpa, is an important part of healing ceremonies conducted by medicine men. Once a pipe is made, it must be blessed in a special ceremony that connects it to the original sacred pipe that was brought to the Lakota by the White Buffalo Calf Woman. This is to ensure that a good spirit resides in the pipe.

Lakota Catlinite T Pipe

The Sacred Calf Pipe bundle is the most sacred object of the Sioux. It was brought to them by a messenger (White Buffalo Calf Woman) from wakan tanka (the holy being, the great mystery, the source of all healing).

The sacred pipe of the Osage is the Niniba.

Pipes currently in use by the Plains Indians are made of a catlinite bowl and a separate wooden stem, usually made of alder or ash.

Ash Pipe Stem

The bowl can be a simple L shape or a T shape or can be a carving of an effigy or other symbol.

Catlinite L Shaped Bowl

The primary source of Catlinite is in Minnesota along Pipestone Creek which is a tributary of the Big Sioux River. This area under control of the US National Park Service is now named Pipestone National Monument. Native Americans can apply for a permit to quarry catlinite there. Catlinite is named for the New York artist George Catlin (1796-1872), who was the first white person to visit the Minnesota quarry from which it was obtained.

Catlinite, a very deep red stone, is symbolic of blood of the ancient people and the buffalo.

Catlinite Double Eagle Pipe by Alan Monroe, Oglala Lakota

Although the words catlinite and pipestone are often used interchangeably, there can be a great difference in the two stones. Catlinite, with its dark red color and exceptional ability to be carved, is only found in the Minnesota mine. Pipestone found elsewhere in the US and the world has a different composition, is often a pale terra cotta color, and cannot be carved like catlinite.

Using a Pipe
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The bowl and stem are separated and carried along with a tamper, the smoking mixture and other smoking accessories in a bag or pouch.

Each person has their own ritual about handing and smoking their pipe. It usually starts by smudging (purifying) the pipe and all of its parts and accessories in the smoke of sage, sweet grass, pine or cedar.

Once the pipe has been purified, the stem is connected to the bowl, the stem being viewed as male and the bowl as female.

Important – How to insert the stem into the pipe.

CAUTION – Never roughly jam the stem insert into the pipe hole. If you force the insert into the barrel, you could break the pipe.

Instead. . .
Moisten the insert with your lips. Insert the stem into the pipe barrel and gently give it ¼ turn. This will give the stem a good hold on the inside of the barrel. The slight moisture will swell the stem insert slightly which results in a snug fit.

If you treat a pipe with respect, it will last a long time.

A certain number of pinches of the smoking mixture are added to the bowl in ceremony. Each pinch is smudged before loading in the bowl. (Read about smudging.)

The smoking of the pipe generally consists of puffing on it, not inhaling it. It is viewed as a means of sending one’s prayers to the Great Spirit and making a connection between the earthly world and the spiritual world.

As the pipe is passed, one holds the pipe in the left hand while using the right hand to wave the smoke over the top of one’s own head as a blessing. When speaking to the Great Spirit, often the stem of the pipe is pointed toward the sky.

In the hands of a medicine man, his sacred pipe is full of mysterious power and able to accomplish many things for the health, safety and well-being of his people.

When smoking is finished, the pipe is again treated with great respect as the bowl is cleaned, the stem is detached from the bowl, the pipe is blessed and stored in its special bundle or pouch.

Catlinite Horse Effigy Pipe by Alan Monroe, Oglala Lakota

Storing a Pipe
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According to Native American tradition, once a pipe has been smoked and blessed the first time, the bowl and stem of the pipe should only be joined for smoking. When they are joined, during smoking, the spirit of the pipe is released. After the ceremony, the bowl should be separated from the stem and they should be stored that way. If you store or display a pipe with the stem and bowl connected, the spirit is free to roam.

Raven Effigy Catlinite Pipe by Alan Monroe, Oglala Lakota

The Offering Pipe
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The Offering Pipe is a small scale, less expensive version of the Sacred Pipe and is meant to be used as an offering or give-away.

Catlinite Offering Pipe by Alan Monroe, Oglala Lakota

In many cultures, offerings are left at sacred sites and as a gift to the Spirits. In Native American culture, offerings might be left each time someone passes a certain way or takes water from a spring or stones from a mine. An offering can also be left for a person (alive or dead) or for a Spirit as a symbol of thanks and respect. The offering might be tobacco, food, money, flowers, craftwork or special objects. When a person goes on a Vision Quest the pipe that he smoked during that time would be one of the greatest offerings he could make to the Spirits. The Offering Pipe by Alan Monroe is perfect for such uses. When left as an offering, the pipe is separated from the stem and traditionally wrapped in red cloth which represents the red road or the good path. The bundle can be tucked in a rock crevice or a tree at the appropriate location.

A Give-Away Pipe also has tradition in Native American culture. When someone dies, there is a ceremony similar to a wake where people come to pay respects to the departed. Sometimes an Offering Pipe is placed in the casket for burial with the deceased. (See above.) Also, the family passes out gifts to family and friends at this time as a symbol of the tradition of giving away some of the deceased’s belongings. This is where a Give-Away pipe might be used.

A year after the person has passed, a feast is held in the person’s honor and the rest of the person’s belongings are given away. This is another instance where a Give-Away pipe would be suitable to exchange between family and friends of the deceased.

Choosing a Pipe
©  2010 Horsekeeping   © Copyright Information

If you are looking for an Offering Pipe or Give-Away Pipe, see above.

For a personal pipe, generally the L-shaped bowls are thought to be for a woman, a single man or for an everyday smoking pipe.

The T-shaped bowls are for a man or a family pipe. The nose of the pipe represents a man coming of age.

The animal effigy pipes are for those who have aligned with a particular animal spirit.

Horse Effigy Pipe from Catlinite by Alan Monroe, Oglala Lakota

The pipes we sell at Horsekeeping.com are new pipes. They have not been smoked or blessed.

Thank you to Alan Monroe, fourth generation Oglala Lakota pipe maker from South Dakota, for his amazing high quality pipes and works of art and for some of the information used in this article.

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Native American Symbols – Turtle and Tortoise

The turtle is an old, sacred figure in Native American symbolism as it represents Mother Earth, and after all, where would we be without her?

Is it turtle or tortoise? See the section at the end of this article to learn the difference. I’m going to use the word turtle to represent both.

To each tribe, the turtle might depict something slightly different but with a recurring theme of creation, protection, longevity.

Carnelian Turtle Totem on Apache Dreamcatcher by Cynthia Whitehawk

According to the Woodland tribes (those in the New England and Great Lakes areas), the turtle dove into the primeval waters to retrieve mud to make the earth. In Iroquois lore, the turtle is a part of the creation myth.

Iroquois Creation Myth

What is a Woodland Tribe? There are many – you might recognize some of the tribal names: Iroquois, Mohawk, Sac, Fox, Mohegan – For a complete listing of the Northeast Woodland Tribes.

The turtle’s hard shell represents perseverance and protection. It has been and can be used as a calendar. The 13 large patterned squares in the center of the shell represent the 13 full moons of the year. The 28 smaller squares around the perimeter of the shell represent the 28 days of each lunar month.

Zuni Turtle Fetish by Adrian Cachini

To the Lakota, the turtle (ke-ya) spirit brings health and longevity. In the past, a beaded turtle was put on the umbilicus or the crib of new born girls for protection and a long life.

Lakota Turtle Spirit by Alan Monroe

Lakota Turtle Dreamcatcher by Tony Monroe

To the Southwest Native American peoples (Navajo, Zuni, Hopi, Santo Domingo Pueblo and others), the turtle represents precious water and is revered in that way. Turtles are popular fetish figures and especially in the southwest where water is a true gift.

Pipestone Turtle Fetish by Daphne Neha, Zuni

In certain Navajo ceremonies, medicines must be dispensed from a turtle shell or an abalone shell – no other container will suffice.

 

Sterling Silver and Gold Turtle Pendant by Tommy Singer, Navajo

In Zuni legend, turtles bring fertility and longevity. Medicine bags with turtles associated with them ask similar longevity for their owners and are considered by some to have the ability to defy death.

Apache Turtle Medicine Bag by Cynthia Whitehawk

Tortoise shell was used for inlay but has been illegal in the U.S. since 1973.

Turtle shells have also been used in the formation of dance rattles.

Turtle or Tortoise

What is the difference between turtle and tortoise? Are they synonymous?

They are similar but not the same. Both are egg laying reptiles with hard shells and scaly skin. They are slow moving so rely on their shell as protection – they can retract their head and legs into their shell to various degrees. Both are cold blooded so require external sources to warm themselves and shade to cool themselves.

A turtle lives in the water (oceans, lakes, rivers) primarily so has webbed front feet and streamlined legs for swimming. The only time a turtle comes on land is to lay eggs. Once hatched, baby turtles are on their own. A turtle has a flat shell. Turtles eat plants and bugs. They tend to migrate in the ocean and other waters.

 

Mother Earth Turtle Rattle by Cynthia Whitehawk, Apache

A tortoise lives on the land primarily so has feet with long claws for digging and no webbing between the toes. Tortoise legs are more like short, strong stumps, good for dessert walking. A tortoise has a rounded or domed shell and since they are usually found in hot climates, they stay underground during the heat of the day. The tortoise is herbivorous, preferring succulents. Tortoise eggs are laid in a nest and when they hatch, the baby turtles move to the mother’s burrow. Tortoises tend to say in one area for life.

Russell Shack, Zuni

Both turtles and tortoises have very long life spans in comparison to humans, some tortoises living as long as 150 years.

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Native American Artifact – Shaman Drum

A drum is central to many Native American ceremonies. It is the heartbeat of the community and the people gathered there.

Apache Ceremonial Gourd Drum

Apache Ceremonial Gourd Drum

“From the Shamans of Mongolia, to the Minianka healers of West Africa, and indigenous cultures across the Americas, therapeutic rhythm techniques have been used for thousands of years to create and maintain physical, mental and spiritual health.” Michael Drake author of Therapeutic Effects of Drumming

THE CEREMONIAL DRUM – Indigenous cultures of the Americas and Canada know and use the drum as the center of all songs, as the great communicator and healer. It is the catalyst for the Spirit of the songs to rise up to the Creator so that the prayers in those songs reach where they were meant to go. At all times, the sound of the drum brings completeness, awe, excitement, solemnity, deep inner relaxation, strength, courage, and the fulfillment to the songs. Every thing, every human action, and every energy revolves in rhythm. It is Mother Earths heartbeat giving her approval to those living upon her. It draws the Eagle to it, who carries the message to Creator.

– Cynthia Whitehawk, Apache Healer

Native American Symbols – Corn

My eyes some times play tricks on me. When I first read the post about Man in the Maze, I thought it said, “Man in the Maize,” and read with interest, looking for the connection with corn. It is a beautiful symbol, and I never knew before what it meant.

Is corn also used as a symbol in jewelry or art by native Americans?

Kathleen

Hello Kathleen,

There is much written about corn as a part of Native American life. This is a very brief overview.

Corn is the symbol of sustenance, the staff of life and is an important symbol of many tribes. Corn is considered a gift from the Great Spirit so its role is both as a food and a ceremonial object.

Hand carved Corn Pendant and Earrings by Lonny Cloud

Hand carved Corn Pendant and Earrings by Lonny Cloud

Very notably, corn is connected to the Hopi for their skill in being able to raise corn in desert sand.

Corn Maiden Kachina

Corn Maiden Kachina

Corn Pollen is a blessing given for protection, understanding and forgiveness. It is used along with prayers, in house blessings, and to bless people by placing pollen on top of the head.

Cornmeal, usually made from perfect ears of white corn, is considered sacred and is used to bless and nurture sacred objects such as fetishes.

Native American Fetish Carvings

Native American Fetish Carvings

The corn maiden gives of her own body to feed her family and provides seeds which ensure a continued source of food.

Corn Maiden Fetish Carving from Picasso Marble

Corn Maiden Fetish Carving from Picasso Marble