Northern Cheyenne Ledger Art by Fort Robinson Breakout Survivors presents the images of Native warriors—Wild Hog, Porcupine, and Left Hand, as well as possibly Noisy Walker (or Old Man), Old Crow, Blacksmith, and Tangled Hair—as they awaited probable execution in the Dodge City jail in 1879. When Sheriff Bat Masterson provided drawing materials, the men created war books that were coded to avoid confrontation with white authorities and to narrate survival from a Northern Cheyenne point of view. The prisoners used the ledger-art notebooks to maintain their cultural practices during incarceration and as gifts and for barter with whites in the prison where they struggled to survive.
The ledger-art notebooks present evidence of spiritual practice and include images of contemporaneous animals of the region, hunting, courtship, dance, social groupings, and a few war-related scenes. Denise Low and Ramon Powers include biographical materials from the imprisonment and subsequent release, which extend the historical arc of Northern Cheyenne heroes of the Plains Indian Wars into reservation times. Sources include selected ledger drawings, army reports, letters, newspapers, and interviews with some of the Northern Cheyenne men and their descendants. Accounts from a firsthand witness of the drawings and composition of the ledgers themselves give further information about Native perspectives on the conflicted history of the North American West in the nineteenth century and beyond.
This group of artists jailed after the tragedy of the Fort Robinson Breakout have left a legacy of courage and powerful art. Hardcover. 2020. Low, Denise.