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Ledger Art

Ledger Art

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About the Art

Ledger art is an example of adaptation. When buffalo hides provided the primary source of material for clothing, teepees, and household goods, Plains Indian adorned them with colorful art that told stories and recorded Plains Indian history. However, after the buffalo were nearly hunted to extinction and tribes were forced to abandon their nomadic ways, Plains Indians lacked a medium for expressing their art and telling their stories. They adapted by using ledger books discarded by federal Indian agents and trading companies.

One story of how ledger art got its start is that a Native American warrior, seeking to feed his starving family, was offered a cow by the local community. Too proud to accept the charity, the hungry man refused the food unless he worked or traded for it. Using a discarded ledger book, he began drawing on the pages and selling the drawings for a quarter to raise money to pay for the cow.

About the Artist

John Isaiah Pepion is an artist who hails from the Blackfeet Nation in northern Montana. The art journey has been ceremonial for John as his understanding of his past, family, and culture grows with his work. He descends from Mountain Chief, a Blackfeet leader who preserved history through numerous winter counts. Through art, John finds personal healing and cultural preservation. He speaks with troubled youth in public schools to promote the benefits of art as therapy. John holds formal degrees in Art Marketing and Museum Studies from United Tribes Technical College and the Institute of American Indian Arts, respectively. However, his education continues with every piece he creates and with every story he shares. John incorporates traditional design elements into colorful contemporary illustrations, leaving his work highly recognizable. Most importantly, John’s art deepens his connections to self and place, providing him with a sense of strength.

For more of his ledger art, visit John Isaiah Pepion's online gallery.