Spirit Beings and Sun Dancers

This weeks book review by Donovin Sprague -

Spirit Beings and Sun Dancers – Black Hawk’s Vision of the Lakota World...

By: Janet Catherine Berlo

This oversize book contains seventy-six ink and pencil pictorial images of events from 1875-95. They consist of scenes such as hunting, warfare, and animals. Many are in color some are black and white. Black Hawk was Itazipco Lakota and lived on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation at Bridger, Red Scaffold, and Cherry Creek during the early reservation period of 1880. The fact that Black Hawk was a spiritual man is also evident in the drawings depicting ceremony.

The art and history opens with the world of Black Hawk and the Lakota. The next section of the book discusses his art style and interprets the meaning of images. Some of these events will be told by Lakota relatives in the future. Two appendices discuss the physical condition of the bound book and its drawings, a historical documentation passed down through the family of William Edward Caton, who commissioned the drawings from Black Hawk. Importantly, Black Hawk chose to record people, animals, and objects of his Lakota world instead of the vast changes that he seen taking place at this time.

In 1994 the original book of Black Hawk’s drawings were sold at Sotheby’s auction house in New York City and they are presently in the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. The drawings are a great history preserved in art.