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This ledger art is derived from Plains Indian biographic art. Because it recorded actual events important to the lives of individuals and groups, biographic art usually comprises naturalistic action scenes composed primarily of horses, humans, weapons, and teepees. The earliest surviving expressions of Northern Plains ledger art were drawn in 1834 by the Mandan warriors Four Bears and Yellow Feather, but ledger art did not become commonplace on the Plains until after 1860.
The earliest drawings remain relatively unknown; some have been lost, while a few still exist in various archives. One of these is the "Five Crows Ledger," a series of thirteen drawings collected, described, and annotated by Fr. Pierre-Jean De Smet during his missionary work to the Flathead Indians of western Montana from 1841 to 1847. Deposited in a Jesuit archive for more than one hundred and fifty years, the ledger was rediscovered in the early 1990s.
The first eleven drawings in the ledger were done by the Flathead chief Shil-che-lum-e-la (Five Crows), also known by his baptismal name, Ambrose. Drawings twelve and thirteen were likely done at a different time by a different artist.
The Five Crows Ledger makes these important works widely available for the first time, and includes significant evaluation and interpretation by James Keyser. Complete with reproductions of all the "Five Crows" drawings and a generous sample of other comparative biographic art, this exquisite and captivating book will be an invaluable resource for all those interested in Plains and Plateau art.