Howling Wolf (Native American, Southern Cheyenne Unknown 1849 - 1927 Texas-Oklahoma)
Fight Near Ft. Wallace, ca. 1874-75
Inscribed lower left: Fight near Ft. Wallace
Stamp-numbered upper right: 42
Ink, pencil, colored pencil, crayon, and watercolor on ledger paper
Leaf: 7 15/16 x 12 3/8 in. (20.1 x 31.5 cm
Full sheet: 12 7/16 x 15 7/8 (31.5 x 40.3 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Jacob D. Cox, 1904
This drawing is one of fifty-seven ledger drawings in the AMAM collection by the Southern Cheyenne warrior and artist Howling Wolf.1 Specific and earnest in the rendering of details of costume, weaponry, hairstyle, body paint, and horse trappings, these drawings are invaluable documents of Plains history. They also reveal much about nineteenth-century Native American representational art, and an individual Native American artist's career.
Fight Near Ft. Wallace records the bravery of the Southern Cheyenne at a battle that occurred near Fort Wallace, located in the western part of what is now Kansas. Although the Southern Cheyenne made frequent raids on the fort from 1869 on, the battle recorded here probably occurred between late 1872, when raiding parties became more frequent, and early 1875, when the tribe was firmly defeated.2 It thus records one of the last battles fought by the Southern Cheyenne to preserve their land and way of life.The artist has identified himself by drawing a Howling Wolf name glyph above the leading warrior's head. He wears a feathered war bonnet and carries a Cheyenne protective shield. He has just unhorsed the Anglo at the left and touches him with his coup stick, an act considered braver than killing one's opponent. Galloping along behind Howling Wolf are five Cheyenne warriors, of varied and lesser status, carrying feathered lances, tomahawks, and sabers. The horses are also outfitted with symbolic Cheyenne accoutrements, such as shields and quirts.This drawing, as with most Native American ledger drawings, is intended to communicate significant information about tribal history and individual acts of valor rather than to render a realistic scene or to function as an aesthetic object. Howling Wolf carefully outlined his figures in ink, and then filled them in with crayons, colored pencils, and watercolor in flat opaque tones. The different headdresses and other insignia identify each warrior; the plaid pants and dress coat identify the white man; and trappings, as well as hide color and, in a few cases, dappling effects, identify each horse. The marks signifying the hoofprints of the horses, flying bullets, and blasting cannons (from behind the flagpole) add action to the scene, much in the manner of the twentieth-century comic book.
The drawing is page forty-two of a ledger that originally contained one hundred and twenty commercially numbered pages. Howling Wolf turned the ledger on its side; the original red and blue vertical margin lines run horizontally across the drawings, while faint writing guidelines run vertically. The Oberlin ledger includes twenty-nine folded sheets, most with two drawings, one on each even-numbered page.3 The drawings mostly depict battles and hunting scenes, although they also include a courting scene and two ceremonial occasions. One double-page image depicts the annual ceremony of the Sun Dance, probably that of the summer of 1874.4 Howling Wolf appears on horseback, leading a group of warriors (bottom half of drawing) into the gathering where they will fire at the rawhide human effigy suspended from the central pole of the sacred Medicine Lodge (top center of drawing).5 The end page of the Oberlin ledger depicts Howling Wolf hunting buffalo.6 Here the artist used sophisticated formal devices: foreshortening in the postures of the hunter and of the slain buffalo calf, and cropping of the buffalos to carry the action dramatically off the edge of the page.
Szabo has dated the Oberlin ledger to around 1874-75 for several reasons.7 The number 75, which appears on the frontispiece, possibly refers to a date. Howling Wolf did not become a Cheyenne warrior society leader until the late 1860s or early 1870s and would not have depicted himself as such unless he was one; hence, the earliest date for the drawings would be around 1870. U.S. government correspondence referred to him as a "desperate character" engaged in raids in 1874 and 1875.8 In the spring of 1875, he was arrested and sent to prison in Florida. The drawings he produced there represent new stylistic influences and depict different subjects.
J. S. Wilker
Howling Wolf was born around 1849 somewhere in the Plains. His father, Eagle Head, was a warrior and Southern Cheyenne council chief, who at first counciled peaceful coexistence with the Anglo world. Both Howling Wolf and his father, however, were also members of the Bowstring Society, a fraternal warrior society and strong proponent of war by the 1870s. Howling Wolf went to war as a teenager and counted his first coup in 1867. He soon attained a reputation as a brave warrior, and became a leader in his warrior society and in Cheyenne ceremonies.In 1875 Eagle Head and Howling Wolf, along with seventy other Southern Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, Comanche, and Caddo warriors and chiefs, were arrested by the federal government and sent to prison at Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida, while the rest of the Southern Plains people were being forced to adjust to reservation life in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). In Fort Marion, Howling Wolf was appointed a sergeant of the prison guard. He was an eager student and continued to create extremely accomplished drawings, which became popular items for the growing tourist trade.9 Released from prison in 1878, he wanted to stay in the East and to attend school, but his eyesight was failing. He was sent to Boston for treatment, but it was only partially successful, and in May of that year, Howling Wolf returned to the reservation in Indian Territory, where he created at least twelve ledger works.10 In an uneasy adjustment to a world that had entirely changed, he first maintained the Anglo habits he had learned in Florida. After his father's death in 1881, however, he reverted to Indian dress and customs, and argued for the rights of his people. Howling Wolf died in 1927 in an automobile accident while returning home to Oklahoma from a stint in a Houston Wild West show, where he was performing an Indian dance four times a day.
Petersen, Karen Daniels. Howling Wolf: A Cheyenne Warrior's Graphic Interpretation of his People. Palo Alto, 1968.
Szabo, Joyce M. Howling Wolf: An Autobiography of a Plains Warrior-Artist. Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 47, no. 1 (1992).
Szabo, Joyce M. Howling Wolf and the History of Ledger Art. Albuquerque, 1994.
Collection General John Pope (after 1874-75, when the drawings were executed, and before 1883, when he retired as Commander of the Department of the Missouri)
Collection his son, John Horton Pope (d. 1896)
By descent to his son-in-law, Jacob Dolson Cox (d. 1900), OC 1851 and 1854 (1896)
Collection his widow, Helen Finney Cox, OC 1846 (1900), by whom given to Oberlin College in 1904
Oberlin, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, 1978. American Indian Art of the Plains and Southeast. 11 - 30 April. No cat.
Oberlin, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, 1992. Howling Wolf: An Autobiography of a Plains Warrior-Artist. 2 October - 6 December (also shown at University Art Museum, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque). Unnumbered cat.
Szabo, Joyce M. "Howling Wolf: An Autobiography of a Plains Warrior-Artist," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 47, no. 1 (1992), pp. 12-13, fig. 25, and ill. color, n.p.
This drawing comprises a single folio from a signature originally bound as part of a ledger. The paper is printed with pink and blue ruled lines, horizontal guidelines for writing, and a stamped page number at the top right corner of the sheet. The drawing is executed in brown-black ink (probably iron gall), crayon and/or colored pencil (green, yellow, and blue), and matte and opaque tempera (ochre/raw sienna, brownish-red, and black/grey).
The ink has been applied with repeated applications to achieve the desired intensity and shows through on the verso both from original bleeding and subsequent acid-induced staining. Colored media lies on top of ink applications. There is some soiling and tarnishing from handling.
1. Joyce M. Szabo ("Ledger Art in Transition: Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Drawing and Painting on the Plains" [Ph.D. diss., University of New Mexico, 1983]) was the first to officially attribute these drawings to Howling Wolf. See also her "Howling Wolf: An Autobiography of a Plains Warrior-Artist" (Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 47, no. 1 ); and Howling Wolf and the History of Ledger Art (Albuquerque, 1994). This entry is based on her work.
2. The title on the drawing, "Fight near Ft. Wallace," is written in the hand of Benjamin Clark, a scout who lived in the Indian Territory from the 1860s until his death in 1914. Married to a Cheyenne woman, Clark collected many ledger drawings and passed them on to military personnel, probably including General Pope (see Provenance). On Clark, see Joyce M. Szabo, "Howling Wolf: An Autobiography of a Plains Warrior-Artist" (Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 47, no. 1 ), pp. 6, 21 n. 7. On the Fort Wallace raids, see Daniel J. Berthrong, The Southern Cheyennes (Norman, Okla., 1963), pp. 262-63, 282-83.
3. For reproductions of all drawings in the Oberlin ledger, see Joyce M. Szabo, "Howling Wolf: An Autobiography of a Plains Warrior-Artist" (Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 47, no. 1 ). The ledger was disassembled at an unknown date. Collation diagrams of the ledger were prepared by the ICA (Intermuseum Laboratory) at time of treatment in 1992 and are in the museum files.
4. Howling Wolf, Sun Dance, pp. 56 and 57 of Oberlin ledger, AMAM inv. 04.1180.10.
5. The caption, again by Clark, reads "The warriors making their grand entry into the Medicine Lodge before beginning the dance. They fire first at the image hanging from the center pole. One band has just arrived and another is approaching the Lodge."
6. Howling Wolf, Howling Wolf Hunting Buffalo, end page of Oberlin ledger, AMAM inv. 04.1180.29.
7. Joyce M. Szabo, Howling Wolf and the History of Ledger Art (Albuquerque, 1994), pp. 183-88.
9. Drawings produced by Howling Wolf at Fort Marion are in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, and the New York State Library, Albany. Several are reproduced in Joyce M. Szabo, Howling Wolf and the History of Ledger Art (Albuquerque, 1994).
10. The Bourke album (Omaha, Joslyn Art Museum, inv. 1991.19) contains twelve reservation drawings; reproduced in Karen Daniels Petersen, Howling Wolf, A Cheyenne Warrior's Graphic Interpretation of his People (Palo Alto, 1968).