We Counted Coup
We Counted Coup
We Counted Coup
We Counted Coup

We Counted Coup

mhl000006

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This painting by Michael Horse depicts two men returning home with a flag captured during battle with the United States government.  The man on left has a bear over his head which indicates his name, Crazy Bear. 

Counting coup on a person or a group of people is a Native American battle victory.  To touch the enemy or take a significant item from the enemy without killing them indicates that the warrior could have killed the enemy, but the enemy was too insignificant to fight.

In North Dakota in 2013, a group of neo-Nazis decended met up in a tiny village in North Dakota and were met by hundreds of Native Americans and allies.  A group of Lakota grandmothers counted coup on the racists by taking their flag and burning it.

Document size: 2.75 H x 6.25" W

Frame size: 11.5" H x 15.5" W

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.