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Indian Self-Rule: Ledger Drawing, Kiowa Year 1849 / Navarre Scott Momaday


The Pulitzer Prize–winning author, poet, and artist N. Scott Momaday made Ledger Drawing, Kiowa Year 1849 for the portfolio Indian Self-Rule in 1983. The portfolio comprises seven pages: a title, a colophon, and five limited-edition prints featuring the works of critically acclaimed artists David P. Bradley, Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, Darren Vigil Gray, and Randy Lee White, in addition to Momaday.

Ledger art is a narrative-based pictorial form of visual autoethnography first created in the nineteenth century by Kiowa, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Caddo, and Comanche warriors while they were imprisoned at Fort Marion (Castillo de San Marcos) in St. Augustine, Florida.1 Ledger Drawing, Kiowa Year 1849—a hand-colored etching and aquatint with embossing—refers to the year of the cholera epidemic, a disease brought to the Kiowas by immigrants from the California coast. The etching is rife with pictorial Kiowa visual language, sequenced to tell a particular story about what Kiowa people endured.

“This work is a nod to the (Kiowa) calendars we used to create. The sundance lodge . . . the man sick with cholera let us know this depiction is set in the summer. The black eared horse . . . tells of a time of great sacrifice and prayer.”
—Travis Mammedaty (Kiowa, Cayuga, Wyandot), 2020

—Jordan Poorman Cocker, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Indigenous Painting Collection Research, 2021

This text was developed from an interview with Kiowa artist and language instructor Travis Mammedaty (Kiowa, Cayuga, Wyandot), nephew of N. Scott Momaday, by Jordan Poorman Cocker, July 20, 2021

1 Fort Reno was established in Indian Territory to colonize the region (now Oklahoma) in 1874. Not long after, more than thirty Cheyenne and Arapaho men and one woman defied the military takeover of the land, and they were arrested and sent to Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida. At Fort Marion, attempts were made to assimilate and colonize the prisoners, who were encouraged to renounce their culture, and were given Western educations and taught to speak and write English. They also continued to make narrative figurative drawings and paintings, although now using Western media (graphite, ink, colored pencils, oil pastels, and watercolors on paper) rather than hide and natural pigments. The works are called ledger art because the paper was from accountants’ ledger books. After they were released from prison in 1878, several Fort Marion survivors returned to Fort Reno, where they enlisted as scouts and continued drawing.

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Indian Self-Rule: Ledger Drawing, Kiowa Year 1849; Ledger Drawing, Kiowa Year 1849, from the portfolio Indian Self-Rule
Navarre Scott Momaday (Artist)
Native American; Kiowa
ink and watercolor on paper
Portrait; single sided .407-.416mm Arches (watermark present) cold press with deckled edge, "DWW" in a trinagle embossed in PR corner
Credit Line: 
Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Museum Association
Accession No: 
Previous Number(s): 
1737.68.2; 13545
Not On View

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