Plains Indian Ledger Art: Arrow's Elk Society Ledger - PLATE 168

Arrow's Elk Society Ledger

No. 55 of 85
Arrow, Unidentified Artist #2
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Document Info

Page No. 168
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

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by Mike Cowdrey


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Ethnographic Notes

Wooden Leg, the Northern Cheyenne Elk Soldier, remembered:

"There was always some danger mixed with the pleasures of wild game hunting. I remember a Cheyenne who was gored terribly by a buffalo bull. He recovered though. After that he became known as Buffalo Not Kill Him" (Marquis, 1931:38).

The Cheyennes, as several passages have noted, have always been absolutely dauntless horsemen, and were from the earliest descriptions we have of them. In August 1820, the Long expedition met friendly members of a Cheyenne war party returning from an attack on the Pawnees:

"...they dashed at full speed down the steep bank of the bluff to meet us, the whole in concert singing the scalp-song. So adventurous and heedless was this movement, that one of the horses stumbled and fell with great violence, and rolled to the bottom. His rider, no doubt prepared for such an accident, threw himself in the instant from his seat, so as to fall in the most favorable manner, and avoid the danger of being crushed by the horse. Not the slightest attention was bestowed upon him by his companions, and indeed the disaster, however serious it at first appeared, hardly interrupted his song. His horse being but little injured, he almost immediately regained his saddle, and came on but little in the rear of the others..." (James, 1823, II: 196).

This drawing resulted from the collaboration of two artists. Arrow drew the figure of the fallen Cheyenne (compare the hand, for example, with Plates 2, 78 & 162). The rest of the figures are the work of another artist, who also created the final Plate in the ledger. This second man had a truer eye for the animal form than Arrow did (compare this deer, with Arrow's attempt in Plate 105); but Arrow had more of a gift for dramatic composition---compare the arrangement of this scene, with Arrow's treatment of a similar theme in Plate 32. If these two men were intentionally hunting deer, as the use of bow and arrow might suggest (Grinnell, 1923, I: 276), then the fallen man has already lost his weapons, as his gored horse bucked and struggled to escape its assailant. The stirrup leather thrown forward is meant to denote violent action and an abrupt stop, which dumped the rider over the horse's head, and onto his left shoulder. His left arm probably is injured, and he certainly has suffered a broken left femur.

There is some possibility that this victim is meant to represent Arrow himself. Although the color of the Mexican saddle is different than we have seen before, so is the artist also different. Compare the saddle here, and its red over-cinch securing an extra pad, with Plates 88 & 154. Arrow has shown himself riding several other black horses, two with white-blazed foreheads (Plates 9 & 142), but subtle differences (docked or forked ears in the others) make this a different animal.

If Arrow were injured, however, this might explain why a different man contributed the final two drawings to the ledger. Arrow could have penciled the crumpled figure of himself, after he had recovered.

Whoever he is, the fallen Cheyenne wears a black wool vest over a calico shirt with blue polka dots. He has a breechcloth and plain leggings of red trade cloth, and fully-beaded moccasins. A dark blue (black) trade cloth blanket is folded around his waist. The left side of his hair is wrapped with plaited strips of red and dark blue trade cloth, the right side with red cloth alone. On the other Cheyenne, this configuration is reversed.

An interesting difference in the way this horse is bridled is that there are no reins attached to the silver-mounted headstall, only a lead line attached to the halter latch. This suggests that the animal was so well trained it could be directed by knee pressure alone. Arrow rides other horses this way in Plates 34 & 163; George Bent does the same in Plates 92 & 118.

The other Cheyenne, presumed to be the secondary artist, has arrived too late to save his friend from a nasty fall, but perhaps still in time to secure the deer. He rides a handsome buckskin pinto racer, distinguished by its notched ears. The horse features a silver-mounted Mexican bridle, with an eagle feather at the forelock, and is encouraged with an elk-antler quirt which hangs from the rider's left wrist.

This Cheyenne wears what appears to be a silk-brocade vest, over a calico shirt with blue pin stripes. A double-width courting blanket---half red, and half dark blue trade cloth---is wrapped around his waist. Below the bottom edge of this blanket the Cheyenne's bare left calf is seen, with a red trade cloth "half-legging" worn over the ankle---compare with the similar half-legging in Plate 136. The Cheyenne is using exactly the same type of vaquero saddle as his fallen friend: note the silver concho on the tapadera; and the second silver concho on the stirrup leather, seen just against the calf of his leg.


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