Trailing the Horse Chief
16" x 6.5 ", Colored Pencil on Antique ledger paper, Billings MT, 1928 cir.
Trailing the Horse Chief is composed on a ledger page, 1928 cir. from the Bear Creek area in South-central Montana which was known to be inhabited by the Absarokee or Crow nation in the early 1800's. Originally the crow were semi-nomadic and relocated from the east, crossing the central plains in search of the sacred tobacco plant, which they found along the Bighorn Mountains in South-central Montana. They entered into their first formal treaty with the US Government in 1851, acknowledging absolute supremacy of the US Government in exchange for Federal protection of their lands, people and way of life. In 1862 the original Homestead Act was signed by President Abraham Lincoln, giving non-native applicants freehold title to up to 160 acres of undeveloped lands west of the Mississippi. This led to a series of historic threats to Indigenous tribal people and pristine lands.
In 1860 coal was discovered by Homesteaders and the importance of its capacity as a source of fuel in the 1880's increased the demand for this fossil fuel. Many independent miners continued to harvest and haul coal by horse and wagon until Elijah Smith and George Lamport formed the Montana Coal & Iron Co. and began to mine on a larger productive scale. The company encountered labor union strikes and pre-depression era and eventually a declined until the beginning of WWII.
The overall image displays two running painted war ponies without riders. Leading is the Horse Chief, the leader of the herd decorated with 7 horse tracks to represent the artist's placement in his family as the seventh son. The red circle around the eye is painted to give a passionate vision to the future. Four stripes on the nose signify the four directions and stages of life.
The eagle feather war bonnet is a symbol of honor and leadership; 12 blue circles trailing the horse chief and the war bonnet denote the 12 original medicine bundles of the Arikara tribe. The horse following the horse chief represents faith in true leadership, step for step, under the brightness of the sun and beneath the mystery of the stars and moon, looking for hope in the future.