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Jennifer Graber (UT Austin)

February 4, 2016, 4:15 pm - 6:00 pm

“‘Zotom Is Busy Drawing a Book’:
Reading Religion in Plains Indian Ledger Notebooks”

In Association with the Book History And Print Culture Program & the Master of Museum Studies Program (Faculty of Information)

Historians of American Indian history have long struggled with the question of sources. Throughout the nineteenth century, many native societies on the Great Plains had neither scripted forms of their own languages nor many members literate in English. As a result, scholars dependent on traditional documentary sources have had few options for eliciting native perspectives on dramatic changes in their societies. A turn to material culture, however, opens up the evidentiary possibilities. Plains Indians produced rock art and painted tipis, as well as visual histories and notebooks full of drawings. Tracking changes in both the content and form of this visual production allows historians to access native reflections on their changing world.

This lecture explores Kiowa Indian drawings and calendars kept in ledger notebooks. Over the course of the nineteenth century, Kiowas created hundreds, if not thousands, of drawings and paintings in notebooks that circulated between Indian communities, American missionaries, military officials, and anthropologists. Through an examination of several Kiowa artists, this lecture asks how Kiowa forms of personal expression, history keeping, and reflection on encounters with the supernatural changed as a result of the move from visual production on natural materials to ledger books.


Jackman Humanities Building, Rm 318
170 St. George St.
Toronto, ON M5R2M8 Canada
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Toronto Centre for the Book