December 1981 | Volume 33, Issue 1
A Cheyenne Self-Portrait
Much of the most glorious of Cheyenne art appears on the lined and paginated leaves of old ledger books. Created by warrior artists in the late nineteenth century, the scenes show victories and events from the days of freedom before the white invasion and continue through the period of conflict that ended in the loss of Cheyenne liberty. By the 1880’s, the vibrant, spirit-filled life depicted by these warrior artists was gone.
Cheyenne ledger-book art was a continuation of traditional male realistic painting on buffalo robes, war clothing, and tipi covers and linings. Who the specific artists were is largely unknown, but we do know the paintings were made between 1865 and 1885, and the painters—mostly Northern Cheyenne s—either took part in the actions they portrayed or painted scenes described by warriors who had been there.
The following portfolio is an excerpt from People of the Sacred Mountain by Father Peter J. Powell. This two-volume study, which includes seventy-seven examples of ledger art, recounts the history of the Northern Cheyenne chiefs and warrior societies from 1830 to 1879. A limited edition of this monumental work was recently published by Harper & Row.