Better Than Money
Better Than Money
Better Than Money

Better Than Money


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The colonization of North America was a clash of cultures that couldn't have been more severe than if an alien species from space descended upon humanity.  The concept of property ownership made as much sense to Indigenous people as selling the air.  For people living on the Plains, the buffalo provided food, shelter, clothing, tools and so much more, making them more valuable than money.

Document: Frank Featherston, US Indian Agent check, Quaw Paw Indian Agency, Wyandotte-Ottawa Indian Territory, ca. 1902 (rare document)

Size: 3” H x 7.75” W unframed

While on film sets as an actor, Michael Horse began creating ledger paintings.  Ledger painting is a traditional Native American folk art that came out of the reservation era in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Prior to that time, events such as battles and calendars were depicted on hides using traditional paints.  When people were removed from their traditional territories and put on reservations they were not allowed weapons of any kind, so no hides.  When people no longer had access to the hides they would find any type of paper and implement to write or draw with to record what was happening prior to being on the reservation, or what life was like being on the reservation. 


Michael first saw ledger paintings at the Gilcrease Museum in Oklahoma.  He realized this was Native American history by Native American people and was inspired to create.  At the time there were fewer than a handful of ledger painters who maintained the art.  Now, there are many ledger painters, including women, who continue to keep this tradition alive.  Michael says the hardest part about his ledger paintings is finding antique documents from the era when ledger paintings were first made.  And, he especially enjoys painting on land grants which gave away Indigenous territories.


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