In this beautiful piece by Blackfeet/Piikani ledger artist John Isaiah Pepion, Wolf Trail—a figure frequently present in John's art—is a great warrior who returns home from the war trail to find love. Usually adorned with a wolf headdress and yellow face paint, he considers the mighty wolf to be his protector.
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The background of John's Wolf Love design mimics the ledger paper that Plains Indians drew and painted on, which often had text and numbers written on it.
Ledger art is a type of narrative art developed by Plains Indian people and was popular from the 1860s through 1920s. Plains artists traditionally painted on buffalo hide; however, the buffalo eradication program by the US government in the 1800s made buffalo increasingly scarce. Plains artists began using paper as the canvas for their narrative designs: artists often used ledger books, the portability of which were ideal for the nomadic Plains lifestyle. Ledger art was primarily drawn or painted by men and depicted narrative, representational subjects (as opposed to the geometric designs frequently found on parfleches, which were most often painted by women).
This is an original ledger by an unknown Blackfeet (Piikani) warrior. It was collected in 1905 on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana. Today, the work is part of the Autry Museum collection: John took this photo of the work when he visited the collection in Los Angeles.