Plains Indian Ledger Art: Arrow's Elk Society Ledger - PLATE 74

Arrow's Elk Society Ledger

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Document Info

Page No. 74
Dimensions: 8.5 * 14 inches inches


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 blanket or robe is around the rider's person, and he sits on another if he has it. His gun is carried across his thighs" (Dodge, 1882: 339-40). Col. Dodge's observations, as usual, are precisely in agreement with the Cheyenne practice depicted by Arrow. The rifle in this instance is easily recognized as a "yellow boy" 1866-model Winchester carbine, with its distinctive brass sideplates. This is held in position by a cartridge belt. Arrow---conditioned to draw blue-steel butt plates on his firearms---errs here, for the 1866 model had a brass butt plate. In Plate 94, Arrow corrects this detail.

This seems to be a self-portrait. The braided rawhide quirt appears to be the same one as in the previous drawing; and the otterskin hair wraps with their tops bound in red and blue are the same as in Plate 76, following. Arrow carries the same "yellow boy" carbine again in Plate 94. So apparently this is himself, even though his horse lacks its usual, protective feather.

His plain, dark blue trade cloth leggings, worn with a breechcloth and blanket of red trade cloth, provide simple contrast to Arrow's blazing shirt of blue-striped, yellow silk. This, in turn, is accented with the same silver armbands shown in many earlier Plates. Arrow's yellow-painted moccasins have a single row of beadwork around the edge of the foot, short red-painted fringe down the toe, and long heel fringes also painted yellow. For an actual pair of Cheyenne moccasins with these exact features, see Cowdrey, 1999: Fig. 26i.

The white stallion has Arrow's usual nickel-silver headstall, fastened over a commercial halter. Here, we can plainly see that the safety lariat leads from the halter latch to the rider's waist, where the coiled end would be pulled up under his belt.

Clearly, Arrow is not trying to kill this coyote, or the carbine would be in action. He seems merely to be chasing it for amusement, and may have succeeded in running it down and counting coup, as Cheyennes sometimes did with bears (Grinnell, 1923, II: 30). Note the exposed gums of the coyote, suggesting that it is nearly winded.

"In ancient times, no one killed wolves or coyotes, and women would not handle their skins...Coyotes have always been more sacred than wolves, possibly because they are more intelligent. The people used to pray to the coyotes, asking them to lead, guide and warn them. Some men could interpret the howling of wolves or coyotes...These animals were seldom killed by the Cheyennes in old times, possibly because the medicine arrows were always wrapped up in the skin of a coyote" (Grinnell, 1923, II: 105-06).

Later, this attitude of respectful avoidance changed. Wooden Leg, born in 1858, recalled: "Bands of us boys went out at times on horseback to hunt wolves...We killed many wolves with arrows..." (Marquis, 1931: 7). Grinnell describes a "Young Wolf Society" composed of women who, after undergoing a simple ceremony of protective body painting, and paying an entrance fee, had been properly prepared to skin wolves and coyotes, and to tan their hides (1923, II: 198-200). He says that "many women underwent this ceremony, which was neither difficult nor costly." This presupposes some sustained hunting of both types of canids.


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