(Indigenous Lives)

Two examples of Native American ledger art.

(N.p. c. 1890). Two sheets torn from schoolbooks, on each of which has been drawn an original work by a student of a late nineteenth-century "Indian School." One sheet, printed with an excerpt from Julius Caesar's De Bello Gallico, shows two Native Americans looking out over a field of buffalo. The other is a sheet from a hymnal, over the stanzas of which the student has drawn three Native Americans dancing in full ceremonial garb. These drawings recall the genre of ledger art, the practice of executing original work over paper previously used by white settlers. Ledger art is traditionally a Plains Indian medium for narrative drawing or painting, and its most prominent artists were prisoners of war at Fort Marion in St. Augustine, FL. The Fort became a harsh military prison for indigenous warriors captured while fighting against the U.S. Army for their autonomy, and between 1875 and 1878, 71 men and one woman were held there, stripped of their Native identities, and given a “Western education.” The same racist ideas informed "Indian Schools," which removed Indigenous children from their homes in order to forcibly assimilate them to white American customs. Students' hair was cut, their names were changed, they were forced to speak only English and to convert to Christianity, always with the threat of corporal punishment or solitary confinement. Many schools were run by the government, which used them to hold hostage the children of tribal leaders, while others were run by churches. These present examples of student artwork suggest a last clutch at a culture being actively stripped away under the guise of education and religion.

Provenance places these among the collection of Kenneth Webbster, whose holdings of ledger art mostly originated from the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania or from St. Mary's Indian Boarding School in Wisconsin. Both sheets show expected toning. De Bello Gallico/Buffalo sheet shows water staining that predates the original artwork. A remarkable, emotional pair, near fine. Item #31715

Price: $1,350.00