Recent Acquisitions: Chief Killer, Central Plains, Cheyenne, School at Fort Marion, about 1877–78

Posted on September 01, 2003 by Kristin Swan

Hood Quarterly, autumn 2003

School at Fort Marion is one of three recent acquisitions of Plains ledger drawings from the Mark Lansburgh collection. In this work, the Cheyenne warrior-artist Chief Killer (1849–1922) depicts a classroom scene of Native American captives, including Chief Killer and other well-known ledger artists, being schooled by volunteer teachers during their internment at Fort Marion from 1875 to 1878. The drawing, the earliest Native American work on paper to enter the Hood's collection, is one of five known ledger drawings of the Ft. Marion classroom, including renditions by Howling Wolf, Zotom, Bear's Heart, and Wo-Haw.

In this drawing, Chief Killer illustrates in rich detail the actual classroom environment with writing on the blackboard, words on flash cards used in reading and writing lessons, details of Victorian dress, as well as the regimental uniforms and row of prisoner's caps hung upon the wall. While the list of prisoner's names, most likely written by the artist, provides a unique research opportunity into the histories of these prisoners at Fort Marion, the experimental bird's eye perspective provides an exciting glimpse into Native American artistic responses to Western education.

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Written September 01, 2003 by Kristin Swan