Plains Indian Ledger Art: Arrow's Elk Society Ledger - PLATE 32

Arrow's Elk Society Ledger

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Document Info

Page No. 32
Dimensions: 8.5 * 14 inches inches


Cheyenne, Cheyenne - Southern


Various Private Owners


Collected in 1882 at Darlington, Indian Territory (Oklahoma) by Sallie C. Maffet.
Descendants of Maffet sold the manuscript at Sotheby's auction in N ...More

Essays & Videos

by Mike Cowdrey


No keywords for this plate.

Ethnographic Notes

In one of his most original compositions, Arrow manages to catalog the intricate details of Cheyenne horse equipment, while illustrating the dangers of riding on the Plains. His mount is probably the same white stallion with iron-grey legs shown in the previous drawing. Here, a black spot has been added to the left hip; but had Arrow tried to include that marking in Plate 27, it would have broken the outline of the feathered trailer on his headdress. Most likely, he simply omitted it.

The sequence of this mishap is sketched with great economy in the few lines at the right edge of the drawing. The circle represents a washed-out depression deep enough to trip the horse. Chasing after the emigrant's dog which is exiting the far side of the page, Arrow was racing on a downhill slope when he saw the danger, too late to avoid it. He instantly reined the horse back on its haunches, but his mount skidded---indicated by the straight lines leading into the hole, tripped on the far edge of the depression, took two sliding steps, then fell, throwing Arrow headlong, and knocking both of them unconscious. In hurtling over the horse's head, Arrow lost his grip on the reins, tried to grab the headstall, which the force of his trajectory ripped out of the horse's mouth, and fell very hard. The horse's momentum tumbled its body forward, coming to rest partly atop its rider.

Such riding accidents---repeated in Plates 78 & 168---were common experiences for Cheyenne men, who reveled in riding hard, and sometimes paid the price. Names of many, noted 19th-century Cheyennes derived from scenes like the one Arrow shows here: Broken Jaw, Broken Leg (called Limpy), Crippled Hand, Lame Medicine Man, Mouthful, Rolls Down, Stubfoot, Twisted Limping and Walks On Crutches.

In brilliant anticipation of what a century later would be called an "exploded" view, Arrow here diagrams how he prepared his horse for riding. Two folded blankets, one blue, the other red trade cloth, were first thrown over the horse's back. On this double pad a Mexican "vaquero" saddle was then cinched into place. Note the cross-hatched texture of the plaited saddle girth. To cushion his own seat, across the saddle Arrow then placed a fringed saddle blanket which probably was made in one of the Northern New Mexican textile communities, perhaps Chimayo, or Santa Fe. Compare the position of a similar weaving in Plate 88. This black, red and blue weaving has been knocked off in the fall, and is lying under the horse's body, below the saddle.

The silver-mounted headstall is here laid out in diagrammatic fashion, showing that the golden eagle feather depicted in many drawings flying above the horse's brow (Plates 2 & 13, for example), is attached to the browstrap, rather than tied to the horse's forelock. Under the headstall, Arrow had first harnessed the horse with a commercial halter, to which is attached a lariat. Commonly, an Indian rider would have this line coiled and secured under his belt (Marquis, 1931: 244). The shock of the fall has ripped the lariat loose, and it lies under the horse. If the animal wandered off while the rider was unconscious, the man would later have less trouble in catching his mount, by the halter lariat dragging behind.

Tied into the horse's tail is the same protective talisman first seen in Plate 15, a small secondary feather from a hawk or eagle. Despite the fall, the horse has been much helped by its presence, for we shall see him again in Plates 34, 64, 88 & 102; the rider, too, will live to fight---and draw---another day.

In this drawing Arrow introduces several other features of his personal appearance, which hereafter will assist us in recognizing him. The first of these is the yellow, Mexican saddle, with its wide stirrup leathers and tapaderas. This saddle will recur in Plates 76, 88, 100, 120, 130, 140, 144 & 154. On one of those occasions, the saddle has been loaned. William Bent had always employed a large number of Mexican horse wranglers at Bent's Fort, so this type of saddle was probably well familiar to Cheyenne people by the 1830's. Also, along the Indian routes by which horses were traded, much earlier Spanish saddles of this type had clearly passed into the Northern Plains by the beginning of the 19th century, where they were the inspiration for the high-pommel-and-cantle saddles made by tribes as diverse as the Blackfeet, Crow, Shoshone and Sioux.

Plates 102, 130 & 154 indicate that one reason Arrow preferred this saddle was the colorful and stylish figure it allowed him to present while courting. Nonetheless, Plates 100 & 140 show that it made a good, solid seat, and permitted Arrow to do some pretty fancy riding.

Arrow's red cloth leggings, featuring beaded strips with a distinctive pattern of black, right triangles, will recur in Plates 80, 86 & 120. A complementary pair of dark blue (black) leggings with identical beaded strips will appear in the next drawing, and recur even more often. The yellow-painted moccasins with long fringes at the heel, and a narrow beaded border of triangles, recur in Plates 100, 120 & 140. The combination of red and white strips to wrap one side of Arrow's hair will be repeated in Plates 140 & 160; the otter wrapping for his hair, in various color combinations, occurs throughout the ledger.

Note the brass rings worn on all of Arrow's fingers. He also has a red breechcloth, a choker made of strung dentalium shells with yellow-painted leather spacers, and has a dark blue (black) tradecloth blanket wrapped around his waist. Brass armbands, which we shall see often hereafter, are worn to accent a shirt of blue and red striped cloth.

Many of the shirts shown throughout Arrow's record may have been made of silk, rather than calico. During the summer of 1864, when the Cheyennes had been forced into war with the Americans, George Bent recalled:

"Early in the summer I...started north to rejoin the Indians. I found them on the Solomon Fork in central Kansas---Cheyennes, Dog Soldiers, Sioux and Arapahoes, all camped close together...and every lodge was full of plunder taken from captured freight wagons and emigrant trains. I saw fine silks heaped up on the ground in the lodges...everything you could think of, all piled up together...Most of the young warriors were wearing fine silk shirts of bright colors and stripes which the women had made out of captured bolts of silk. I had half a dozen of these shirts made for me, and wore them for some time" (Hyde, 1968: 140).

Although the period shown here is about a decade later, the glut of silk during 1864-65 whetted Cheyenne appetites for fine cloth. Thereafter, the photographic record reveals men's shirts and women's dresses often reflecting the sheen of silk.

Arrow has painted his face in a horizontally-bisected pattern of yellow over red. Such facial painting, with pigments mixed in buffalo grease, was for protective as well as cosmetic purposes (Marquis, 1931: 88). In the high altitudes of the Plains country sunburns were a concern for many Cheyennes, as evidenced by joking names of prominent tribesmen such as Burnt All Over, Burns Red In the Sun (Powell, 1981: 474 & 1062), and Crazy Head (one's head becomes crazy from sunstroke: Petter, 1915: 199). For the same reason, Arrow has a fan made of golden eagle feathers hanging from his saddle horn. These were used for shading the face and eyes, as much as for ventilation.

An interesting feature of this composition is its dual perspective. In the diagram at far right, which tells the tale of the chase, the tracks are shown as they would appear to a man on horseback. These tracks lead to the crumpled bodies of horse and rider, also seen from overhead. The horse is not "running", but lies on its side, its right leg lying across Arrow's legs. The headstall, which has been torn out of the horse's mouth, is lying on the ground beside Arrow's head and torso. The woven saddle blanket is also lying on the ground, seen squarely from above, as is the revolver, seen in profile.

At the left edge of the drawing, however, Arrow's wounded quarry is escaping in perfect profile also, but is shown at an angle of 90 degrees to the rest of the picture. This elision of perspective, proceeding originally from visionary perceptions, is characteristic of Cheyenne graphic imagery, especially in the complex designs often shown on painted war shields. As noted by the Hungarian art historian Imre Nagy: "...we must understand that native artists converged the elements of the horizontal plane and vertical axis on only a single plane, the circular surface of the shield" (Nagy, 1994b: 40; this entire discussion by Dr. Nagy is worth careful study by anyone interested in the Cheyenne artistic tradition).

Arrow employs similar shifts in perspective in Plates 15, 18-19, 80, 120 & 155. Most of these are quite elementary, combining profile figures with tracks as seen from overhead. Plate 32 is the only one in the collection which represents complete figures as seen both laterally, as well as from above.

Another aspect of this drawing which might seem unusual is that Arrow was chasing and apparently trying to kill a dog. The animal has been shot through the left haunch; entry and exit wounds are represented, both streaming blood. The naked tail of this canine denotes that it is not an Indian breed, all of which were closely descended from wolf or coyote.

Note that the appearance of both man and horse indicate the pacific intention of Arrow on this particular day: the horse's tail has not been wrapped for war; nor is Arrow well armed, having only the pistol. The Cheyenne was merely riding when he encountered this dog. Perhaps it attacked his horse. Many Army officers, and men in the enlisted ranks kept dogs, which often accompanied them on campaign. This will be discussed in some detail with Plate 70. Here, we need only observe that if this were a "military" dog, Arrow would have ascertained that fact immediately, and ridden hard to warn his relatives. The fact that he felt at leisure to chase the animal---and to betray his own presence by firing at it---means that the dog was either alone; or more likely belonged to a freight outfit, or an emigrant wagon train, White people whose only horses were bound to slow-moving wagons. Compare Szabo, 1994b: Fig. 68, where Howling Wolf shows a dog associated with a freight outfit. During the conflict of 1874-75, all such people were considered enemies, and their dogs as well.


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