In 1922, the Newberry Library acquired this collection of 160 drawings, attributed to “Sioux Indians” living in Fort Yates, which serves as headquarters of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The three boxes of art were sold by one Aaron McGaffey Beede, an Episcopal missionary who had provided paper and art supplies to the residents he had come to know, and paid them small sums to purchase the resulting works. This strange exchange arose from a dire situation: in the winter of 1913-14, the Lakota faced starvation from failed crops and a mysterious disappearance of cattle. These drawings, for them, carried exceptional value linked to survival; today, they represent significant records of indigenous self-representation as well as cross-cultural exchange.The entire collection is now available to examine online as part of the Newberry’s new open access policy that has so far made over 1.7 digital images available for unrestricted and free use. The drawings, specifically, are part of the Edward E. Ayer Collection, which comprises artworks, books, and other materials related to American Indian history and culture.
p.s. I’ll be back next week… Lara