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Women and Ledger Art

Four Contemporary Native American Artists

Richard Pearce

Publication Year: 2013

Ledger art has traditionally been created by men to recount the lives of male warriors on the Plains. During the past forty years, this form has been adopted by Native female artists, who are turning previously untold stories of women’s lifestyles and achievements into ledger-style pictures. While there has been a resurgence of interest in ledger art, little has been written about these women ledger artists. 

Women and Ledger Art calls attention to the extraordinary achievements of these strong women who have chosen to express themselves through ledger art. Author Richard Pearce foregrounds these contributions by focusing on four contemporary women ledger artists: Sharron Ahtone Harjo (Kiowa), Colleen Cutschall (Oglala Lakota), Linda Haukaas (Sicangu Lakota), and Dolores Purdy Corcoran (Caddo). Pearce spent six years in continual communication with the women, learning about their work and their lives. Women and Ledger Art examines the artists and explains how they expanded Plains Indian history.

With 46 stunning images of works in various mediums—from traditional forms on recovered ledger pages to simulated quillwork and sculpture, Women and Ledger Art reflects the new life these women have brought to an important transcultural form of expression.

Published by: University of Arizona Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xviii

Until recently, Plains figurative art on paper, or ledger art, has been considered a male domain. With this book, Richard Pearce develops a history of Plains women artists who have chosen to express themselves through ledger art. These artists seek to provide a woman’s perspective on tribal history, sometimes slightly different than that portrayed by male artists, and thus they serve as revisionists of Plains cultural memory. These women tell us how and why they turned to ledger art to fill in omitted scenes, some not pertinent to a man’s world, which...

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xix-xxii

Women and Ledger Art evolved from research begun when I retired from Wheaton College (Massachusetts) in 2001. I was writing about the Spokane author Sherman Alexie and decided to visit his reservation. When John Ross, an anthropologist who had been working with Spokane people for thirty years, took me to the studio of George Flett, I saw my first ledger drawing. It was of a Spokane warrior, holding his shield and coup stick as he rode across the pages of a 1930 and 1931 Congressional Record. The vivid memory of Flett’s ledger drawings...

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Introduction: From Hides to Paper

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pp. 1-12

In the early nineteenth century, warriors painted pictographic narratives of their heroic deeds on their robes and tipis as a way of bringing honor to their families and tribes as well as themselves. These narratives could be readily understood not only by everyone in their tribes but also by other Plains Indians.1 Women’s art played a complementary and more pervasive role, and required a great amount of their time and energy. Rather than making narrative pictures, they quilled and beaded abstract designs on their families’ clothing. Their art was...

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1. Sharron Ahtone Harjo (Kiowa)

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pp. 13-28

A generation after Lois Smoky left the University of Oklahoma and stopped painting, at least four native women were encouraged to become artists at Bacone College by W. Richard West, who was director of the Art Department from 1940 to 1970. Indeed, he sought out young native women of talent, encouraged research into tribal history, and demanded accuracy and authenticity. Joan Hill (Muscogee Creek Nation/Cherokee), Ruthe Blalock Jones (Shawnee-Delaware-Peoria), Sharron Ahtone Harjo (Kiowa), and Virginia Stroud (United Keetoowah...

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2. Linda Haukaas (Sicangu Lakota)

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pp. 29-52

I was born but not raised on the Rosebud reservation. My life, dictated by my father’s career with the federal government, allowed us to travel, live in Puerto Rico (my mother’s homeland) and Florida, and stay [on the reservation] in Okreek during many of our summers. Life in Puerto Rico was a well-defined, linear path to womanhood. I was well protected, and there were no opportunities for experimentation. I spent

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3. Dolores Purdy Corcoran (Caddo)

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pp. 53-74

Dolores Purdy Corcoran was interested in Caddo history, particularly that of the sophisticated ancient Mound Builder culture, whose sites have been carbon dated to 5000 BC and, by AD 1200, were large enough to hold thirty thousand people. She was particularly drawn to the Southern Death Cult and the ritual of burying masks, made of conch shell gorgets, with the bodies of important people. As a way of connecting with the “old ones,” she began creating contemporary representations of the Mound Builder masks. But, “while I was working outside...

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4. Colleen Cutschall (Oglala Lakota), Re-visioning History, Adding Dimensions

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pp. 75-86

Besides being a well-known artist, Colleen Cutschall is a professor of visual/aboriginal art at Brandon University in Manitoba. Her “lineage goes back to the Crazy Horse and Black Elk tiospaye, or extended family.” These two historic figures, she tells us, have played prominent roles in her life “as well as of the whole life of the Oglala people” because of their concern for maintaining and perpetuating the traditions that provide their identity as a people.1 Her knowledge of Oglala history and traditions, along with her restless accumulation of knowledge and...


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pp. 87-86

Works Cited

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pp. 87-99


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pp. 100-101

About the Author

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p. 102-102

E-ISBN-13: 9780816599820
E-ISBN-10: 0816599823
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816521043
Print-ISBN-10: 0816521042

Page Count: 128
Illustrations: 46 photos
Publication Year: 2013