Discover the powerful narrative art of the Plains and dive into the rich culture and storytelling traditions of Native American communities.

Articulated Insight – “News, Race and Culture in the Information Age”

June 1, 2024 – January 20, 2026

Martin E. Red Bear (Oglala/Sicangu Lakota, b. 1947). Red Bear’s Winter Count, 2004. Canvas, acrylic paint; 116.5 x 116 cm. (26/8020)

National Museum of the American Indian
4th St. & Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC

Unbound: Narrative Art of the Plains celebrates the full expression of narrative art among Native nations of the Great Plains. The exhibition juxtaposes historical hides, muslins, and ledger books with more than 50 contemporary works commissioned by the museum. Illustrating everything from war deeds and ceremonial events to family life, Native identity, and pop culture, the artworks are as diverse as the individuals who created them.

Early narrative warrior-artists recorded their battle exploits on buffalo-hide shirts and robes. During the 19th century, as trade broadened, they painted more elaborate scenes on large canvas tipi liners and used muslin cloth as well as hides for winter counts, some documenting more than 100 years of history. When ledger books became available, artists filled their pages with narrative drawings. Native artists began reviving “ledger art” in the 1970s, creating a vibrant form that takes on contemporary topics, uses a variety of media, and is widely collected.

Curated by Emil Her Many Horses (Oglala Lakota), Unbound features historical works from the museum’s collections byfourteen artists—nine of them known by name—including: Bear’s Heart (Southern Cheyenne), Zotom (Kiowa), Siyosapa/Black Chicken (Yanktonai Nakota), Canté-wani′ća/No Heart (Yanktonai Nakota), Spotted Tail (Apsáalooke [Crow]), Tatank’-ehan’ni/Old Buffalo (Lakota), Rain In The Face (Hunkpapa Lakota), and Ćehu′pa/Jaw (Hunkpapa Lakota).

The exhibition also displays new drawings and paintings by Ronald L. Burgess (Comanche), Sherman Chaddlesone (Kiowa), David Dragonfly (Blackfeet/Assiniboine), Lauren Good Day (Arikara/Hidatsa/Blackfeet/Plains Cree), Darryl Growing Thunder (Dakota/Nakoda), Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty (Dakota/Nakoda), Terrance Guardipee (Blackfeet), Vanessa Jennings (Kiowa/Pima), Dallin Maybee (Northern Arapaho/Seneca), Chester Medicine Crow (Apsáalooke [Crow]), Chris Pappan (Osage/Kaw/Cheyenne River Lakota), Joel Pulliam (Oglala Lakota), Martin E. Red Bear (Oglala/Sicangu Lakota), Norman Frank Sheridan Sr. (Southern Cheyenne/Arapaho), Dwayne Wilcox (Oglala Lakota), James Yellowhawk (Cheyenne River Lakota).

Generous support for the project is provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art. Additional support provided by Dr. Quincalee Brown and Dr. James P. Simsarian.

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