Historical Artworks Depicting American Indian Wars
For thousands of years, there were millions of indigenous people living in North America. In 1607, a group of English colonists landed in Jamestown, Virginia. As more and more settlers arrived at the newly discovered continent, a series of conflicts with the Native Americans took place. These conflicts lasted until the early 20th century and the Native American population decreased by more than 90%. Many moments and experiences during the period of intense conflict were recorded in the form of art.
Native Americans living on the Great Plains had a tradition of using buffalo and deer hides as “canvas” to paint moments in their lives. After they got in contact with the English colonists, new materials such as blank pages of ledger books replaced animal hides. Native Americans used a variety of mediums, including colored pencils, crayons, and watercolor paints, to create art. Many artworks depicting battles they fought against the U.S. Army were recorded.
“Soldiers Charging at Powder River”
by Black Horse (Cheyenne)
This drawing was illustrated in 1877 and was discovered in a Cheyenne ledger book. Many drawings from the Cheyenne ledger book were unsigned. Scholars attributed this drawing to Black Horse and other Cheyenne warrior artists. It can be seen from this drawing that Cheyenne encountered a group of US soldiers. The U.S. soldiers were dressing in grey or blue uniforms; on the other side, Native Americans had red face paint and long hair. Bullets were flying in the air and one can feel the intensity of the battle. The Battle depicted was the Battle of Powder River in the Montana Territory. It broke out when Colonel Joseph J. Reynolds attacked a Cheyenne Indian encampment, initiating the Great Sioux War of 1876.
"Battle with U.S. Soldiers"
By Kiowa Indian
Between 1873 and 1878, Kiowa Indians were forced to move south of the Washita River to the Red River and Western Oklahoma. This drawing was created between 1880 and 1890, the first few years after they settled in their assigned reservation. It can be observed from the drawing that a Kiowa Indian warrior was standing near a fallen U.S. Army soldier. There were two arrows in the Indian warrior’s hand and a group of U.S. Army soldiers dressing in gray and blue army uniforms standing in the background.
Artworks drew by American Artists:
“Battle of Beecher's Island”
by Frederic Remington
Frederic Sackrider Remington was an American painter and sculptor who specialized in depicting the American Old West. As a member of the second generation of Hudson River School artists, Remington featured cowboys, American Indians, and the U.S. Cavalry in his artworks. Remington created this painting to illustrate the scenery of the Battle of Beecher Island, which was also known as the Battle of Arikaree Fork. It was fought between the US Army and several plains Native American tribes in 1868.
"Custer's Last Stand"
By Kurz & Allison
In the painting, George Armstrong Custer, United States Army officer and cavalry commander, was shooting at Native Americans. Custer’s Last Stance, also known as the Battle of Little Horn, was an armed engagement between the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army and the combined forces of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes. This battle was the most significant battle of the Great Sioux War of 1876. In this battle, Custer was killed and five of the 7th Cavalry's twelve companies were annihilated.