Lakota Ledger Drawings at Fort Caspar

Posted on 05/30/2019
An exhibit from the Wyoming State Museum is now on view at Fort Caspar Museum.  Titled “Lakota Sioux Indian Ledger Drawings,” this colorful display will remain on view through June 24, 2019.  Visitors will see reproductions of drawings from a ledger book confiscated in 1891.

The artist was a Lakota warrior named Red Hawk, and his drawings depict a variety of subjects.  Most show scenes of warfare, both with other Indian tribes and with soldiers.  There are depictions of peace councils and warriors returning home to their wives; several represent acts of bravery such as stealing horses, which demonstrated a warrior’s bravery and prowess to his tribe.  Others humorously illustrate mounted warriors using umbrellas to shade themselves from the heat of the sun.  It is believed that warrior artists often carried their art-filled ledgers into battles, perhaps feeling they held spiritual power.

Lined ledger books were used for recording financial accounts and inventories by hand, but they were also a readily-available and inexpensive source of blank paper in the mid-19th century.  For their illustrations, the Native artists chose brightly colored pencils and crayons which added a strong visual appeal.  The term “ledger art” was applied to all such drawings done by American Indians, even those drawn on unlined paper.  Ledger art is a tradition-filled yet uniquely individual art form, primarily produced in the mid- to late-19th century by Indians of the Plains.  The men who produced these ledger drawings were continuing the male tribal tradition of painting narrative scenes on items such as tipis, shields, and quiver covers.  

Fort Caspar Museum’s hours during the summer months are 8:00 am to 5:00 pm daily.  Admission prices are $4 for adults; $3 for youth (ages 13-18 years) and seniors (ages 62 and over); and free for children (12 years and younger) and for FCMA members.  For more information, call the Museum (307-235-8462) or check our website   Fort Caspar is located at 4001 Fort Caspar Road.