Recording history by whatever is handy
December 31, 2006 8:24 AM   Subscribe

The white man brought disease, war and...accounting ledgers. The Plains Indian warrior switched from previous art materials and used the ledgers to create Ledger Art to record the glory of the hunt and battles between tribes and against whites. But as the Native American life deteriorated, Ledger Art recorded a vanishing way of life and the dramatic change in their culture. Some of that art has been lost or fallen apart, but The Plains Indians Ledger Art Website exists to preserve the images for the future.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (16 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
It's a good thing they had casinos to fall back on, because frankly their artwork is not very good.
posted by jonson at 8:58 AM on December 31, 2006

This is fascinating, despite borderline racist snarks by some.
posted by papakwanz at 9:07 AM on December 31, 2006

Fascinating juxtaposition between the warriors on horseback and the ruled backgrounds. I remember my first accounting job at a small company without a computer (I'm Old!) and the ledgers were usually the highest quality paper in the office. And, from actual experience, pretty nice to doodle on. (Regrettably, none of my art from that period has survived)
posted by wendell at 9:09 AM on December 31, 2006

So far, I've garnered one thing from looking at these: my elementary school artwork probably would have looked pretty badass on some buffalo hide or a cave wall.
posted by tumult at 9:14 AM on December 31, 2006

On preview- Tumult just stole my borderline racist snark.
posted by efbrazil at 9:21 AM on December 31, 2006

Wow, this is really interesting. Thanks for the post. I've always found it wonderful how important art was to Native Americans/First Nations culture.

And to certain others: you are pathetically lame. Go waste someone elses time.
posted by stray at 9:44 AM on December 31, 2006

What? When Europeans do it, it's "modern art", but when Native Americans do it, it's "poor drawing skills"?
posted by wendell at 9:46 AM on December 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

It's called a double standard, wendell. It's how whitey keeps the brown man down!
posted by jonson at 9:56 AM on December 31, 2006

I think this one is really pretty awesome. Snark all you want about elementary school drawing skills, but then take a little time to read the explanation behind some of the perspective here (scroll down to the last 4 paragraphs.) It's fascinating and a good reminder that this is art that's coming from a completely, yes completely, different worldview than ours. Compare this, for example, to this and remember that this stuff is all being created by nomadic cultures for really different reasons than some Chelsea artist in a loft.

The appropriation of materials from a different culture is also really interesting to me - excellent post, thanks, brandon!
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:34 AM on December 31, 2006

Nice post, Brandon Blatcher. I first saw 'ledger art' at the Eiteljorg museum's Indian Market (my brother's girlfriend has been the event organizer for the past few years).

For the hatas (and the sincerely interested), here's the online gallery of the excellent, modern ledger artist (Donald Montileaux) who I met and whose work I saw at Indian Market.
posted by noahpoah at 10:52 AM on December 31, 2006

Good links, Brandon Blatcher & noahpoah. Thanks for introducing me to this stuff. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go sharpen my Crayolas and open up Excel.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 11:04 AM on December 31, 2006

Fabulous stuff, Brandon Blatcher - thanks for the post. You might enjoy this related prior post on Lakota Winter Counts.

Much of this work is more about story telling and recording history than decorative or fine art. Regardless, to measure the value of any aboriginal art with eurocentric standards is to use a very narrow lens to view human creativity and expression.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:41 AM on December 31, 2006

Yeah, I love the Winter Counts. There was SOOOO much stuff, I had a hard time focusing on a particular area.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:27 PM on December 31, 2006

Awesome post Brandon Blatcher. Thank you.

Wonderful art work and poignant recording of history. I particularly like this set of ledgers. A couple. A group. Dancer/shaman.
posted by nickyskye at 4:02 PM on December 31, 2006

ps and I love this image as well.
posted by nickyskye at 4:06 PM on December 31, 2006

Just piping up to say [this is good]. Thanks!
posted by GrammarMoses at 4:34 PM on December 31, 2006

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