A Kiowa’s Odyssey: Etahdleuh Doanmoe’s
Sketches from Fort Marion
Among the Carlisle Indian School artifacts in The Trout Gallery, a bound leather album entitled A Kiowa’s Odyssey is particularly significant (cat. 50a-d). Although partially disassembled and in fragmentary condition, the album contains an assortment of inscriptions, photographs, and, at one time, ledger drawings. The inscriptions associate the album with Etahdleuh Doanmoe, a Kiowa prisoner at Fort Marion and afterwards a student at the Carlisle Indian School. The photographs identify Etahdleuh, and help the viewer to visualize his experiences. The ledger drawings display Etahdleuh’s journey from life on the Plains to detainment at Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida. A typed preface signed by Mason Pratt, son of the Carlisle Indian School superintendent, Captain Richard Pratt, partially explains the album’s purpose and its formation.
The red leather album measures 8 3/4 x 11 1/2 inches. “A KIOWA’S ODYSSEY” appears embossed in gold on the front cover and alludes to a classical epic or journey. Opening the album, one finds a photograph pasted onto the inside front cover. Five men dressed in military uniforms are pictured in the photograph (fig .3; cat. 50a). Four wear dark uniforms indicating no rank; the central figure wears a lighter uniform that bears the rank of sergeant. Below the photograph is an inscription that reads: “John W. Okestehi / Cheyenne; Henry Pratt Taawayite / Comanche; Paul C. Zotom / Kiowa; Edward Etahdleuh / Kiowa; David Pendleton / Cheyenne; Formerly prisoners at St. Augustine Florida. (1875-1878).” This inscription identifies the figures in the photo; Etahdleuh is the seated figure in the middle, affectionately known to Richard Pratt as his “Prize Florida boy.”1 Pasted onto the album’s inside back cover is another photograph showing a group of prisoners soon after their arrival at Fort Marion (fig. 1; cat. 50a). Etahdleuh appears at the left, sitting on a cannon.2 Taken together, the photographs pasted into the album constitute “before” and “after” images of Etahdleuh—one in a “savage” state, the other as a “civilized” man.3
Between the covers one finds twenty-eight rather thin blank pages bound into the album’s spine. At first, it is difficult to determine why so many blank pages were included in the album. Moreover, some of the pages have faint, ghost-like images, which are a result of once having been in contact with drawings whose pigments offset onto the pages. However, there are no drawings in the album today. Furthermore, the bound edges of the blank pages are puckered, an effect usually caused by contact with moisture. Although the binding is in poor condition, it is certain that the twenty-eight blank pages formed the basis of the album.
The blank pages are otherwise unimportant, save for the back of page two, where one finds a worn and deteriorated cardboard cover pasted onto it. The cover has been cut down to fit the dimensions of the page and bears a pencil inscription in Richard Pratt’s handwriting that reads: “Drawn by Etah-dle-uh / Kiowa prisoner / Fort Marion, Fla. / April 26 1877 / A present to Mason from Papa.” The cardboard cover appears to be the remains of a sketchbook or portfolio, evidently one used to hold a number of Etahdleuh’s drawings that he made while he was a student of Pratt’s at Fort Marion. Moreover, it appears that this original portfolio of drawings was given by Richard Pratt to his son Mason. It would seem that this worn cardboard cover was glued onto page two of the leather album to preserve the handwritten inscription.
In addition to the album, with its photographs, blank pages, and the inscribed cover, The Trout Gallery has two loose sheets with drawings on each side. The drawings are made with colored pencils and include typewritten captions at the top. Upon examining both sheets, paying close attention to their dimensions and to stitch marks along the binding edge, it is absolutely certain that they were once bound among the blank pages of A Kiowa’s Odyssey. The drawings are mechanically numbered, 11 and 12 (figs. 4, 5; cat. 50b), 13 and 14 (cat. 50c) in the upper corners (alternating, left to right; front to back), and were once joined as pairs with linen tape. When compared to other known ledger drawings by Etahdleuh, it is certain that they are part of a larger set of sheets now in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, which have a page format, typewritten captions, binding marks, artistic style, and subject matter that match the two sheets in The Trout Gallery.4 Confirmation that the drawings at Yale are by Etahdleuh is documented in one of the typed captions, which reads: “…Etahdleuh [is] the author of this book.”5
In addition to the pair of sheets by Etahdleuh, The Trout Gallery also has a single unnumbered sheet of the same size, weight, and condition as the other drawings (cat. 50d). The sheet features a typewritten preface that reads:
This book of drawings by Etahdleuh, one of the Kiowa prisoners, mentioned on the next page, was made during the first year of his confinement in the old Spanish fort at St. Augustine, Florida. It is an epic in true Indian art of scenes of native life on the plains, the surrender of his tribe to the military forces of the United States after a futile resistance to invasion of his hunting grounds by white settlers, the journey to Fort Marion and a few of the incidents there…The captions were written by General Richard Henry Pratt a few years before his death. The photograph on back cover is of a group of prisoners soon after their arrival. Etahdleuh is sitting on cannon at left. The one on the front cover is of Etahdleuh and four companions after a few years schooling in the East, following their release. M.D.P.
The back side of this sheet includes a short typewritten biography of Richard Pratt and concludes with the handwritten signature, “Mason.”
With this pool of evidence, one can now reconstruct the steps leading to the formation of A Kiowa’s Odyssey and its subsequent disassembly years later. First, there are Etahdleuh’s ledger drawings at The Trout Gallery and the Beinecke Library, which represent the artist’s time on the Plains, and his travel to and life at Fort Marion. As the original cardboard cover (now preserved on the back of page two of A Kiowa’s Odyssey) indicates, these drawings were once part of a portfolio by Etahdleuh which Richard Pratt gave to his son Mason. Sometime after Richard Pratt’s death, when the original cardboard cover was showing signs of deterioration, Mason commissioned a bookbinder to assemble Etahdleuh’s drawings, the two photographs, and the original cover with the written inscription, into one handsome and concise presentation. However, in order to protect the drawings and insure that they would not slip out, the bookbinder joined them together in pairs with linen tape and stitched the paired drawings into the album, inserting each pair between blank sheets of the album, which act as protective tissues. However, the drawings were bound into the album shortly after they were taped together, evident by the fact that the blank sheets facing the drawings absorbed the moisture from the water-based glue in the linen tape and puckered.6 Additionally, Mason had the bookbinder emboss A KIOWA’S ODYSSEY in gold on the front cover to complete the presentation of Etahdleuh’s story. At a later date, the album was forcefully disassembled and the drawings removed and separated, causing damage to the binding and leaving torn stitch marks and a strip of linen tape at the binding edge of each drawing. With all the drawings removed, all that remained of the album were the two photos, the blank pages, and the original cardboard cover that was pasted onto the back of page two. At some subsequent date, the album cover, the two sheets of drawings, and other materials found their way to Dickinson College, while the other drawings were donated to Yale University by the heirs of the Pratt family, as part of a larger collection of Pratt-related documents.
Having reconstructed the album and its history, it is possible to consider the two sheets in The Trout Gallery collection as an example of ledger drawing and their production at Fort Marion. As noted earlier, Etahdleuh’s drawings document his experiences from his native life in Oklahoma territory to his arrival and education at Fort Marion. However, well before making drawings of this event, Plains Indians had been making ledger drawings. Indeed, the earliest known ledger book dates to the 1860s and was created by a member of the Cheyenne Indians. The tradition appears to stem from the Indian Wars, when warriors, in the hope of distracting themselves from the brutality of battle, “would take ledger books, turn them horizontally, and begin to draw.”7 The lined ledger books, originally intended for “recording details of commerce or tallying prisoners,” were left behind by white settlers and members of the military.8
Upon arrival at Fort Marion, Etahdleuh and his fellow warriors continued the tradition of drawing in ledger books. As Richard Pratt noted, “[t]he depressing effect of their being in irons, and their long trip” had a major impact upon their physical and mental status.<9/sup> They used representations of their home life and lengthy trip to ease the process of reformation. In confinement, Pratt noticed the great interest in drawing by over half of the detained warriors: “All along we saw traces of Indian skill and ingenuity in the distinctive work of the tribes.”10 At first Pratt sought to prohibit such drawing, as it seemed to recall native activities; however, “after a time… [he] made appeals” and ordered several ledger books.11 Pratt supported the practice of drawing based on the assumption that they would generate interest among white audiences. Henceforth, he thoroughly supported and recognized the “possession of fine native ability and art.”12
Although Pratt strongly suggested that the Indians further their practice of drawing, he made sure to restrict any stylistic traditions that would be reminiscent of their life on the plains.13 With the hope of providing the students with proper examples of the Western artistic tradition, Pratt invited two illustrators to visit the fort.14 The first was a St. Augustine citizen named Greatorex, who worked within the confines of European artistic convention and “often entertained the Indians with his art, teaching some of them samples of this ability to entertain.”15 The second visitor was J. Wells Champney, best known for his illustrations in Scribner’s Monthly, who came to the fort to render features of the education and prison life for Harper’s Magazine.16 The Indians were slowly influenced by the example and teaching of these artists.
Through such instruction, Pratt encouraged his Native American pupils to adopt a Western approach to the visual arts. “As rapidly as the prisoners shed their chains, they were freed from the strictures of tribal art.”17 They were instructed upon the benefits of linear perspective and a balanced composition, while abandoning images of warfare or symbols affiliated with tribal life. Captain Pratt believed that “the censorship of war scenes reinforced the popularity of passive images.”18 While tribal imagery was often symbolic and two-dimensional, Pratt’s instruction demonstrated how to develop a three-dimensional setting and use color to suggest texture and volume. Pratt conducted his courses with every intention of providing “… a unique opportunity to observe the impact of acculturation upon a group of artists in a limited time and under known conditions.”19 The drawings were the results of their reluctant submission to a different way of life and the refreshing interest they were able to find in this new one.
Pratt soon recognized that ledger drawing became a popular venue for expression among the Indians and emphatically supported the production of drawings. The Indians “seemed excessively fond of drawing and were delighted with a gift of pencil and paper.”20 During their three-year confinement, 26 warriors made more than 847 drawings. Such production required supplies. Between 1875 and 1878, surviving records of sale document requests for expensive art materials, which included pencils, colored ink, fine pens, and bound sketchbooks. It would seem that pages and a cover from one such sketchbook was used by Etahdleuh, for what was to become A Kiowa’s Odyssey. Soon, ledger books were considered as souvenirs of Indian life while in captivity. Pratt often collected the drawings and sold them to the white population, which developed an appetite for such Indian-related artifacts. “The topic of the Journey…was most intriguing to the Anglo public [and eventually] tourist demand for warrior curios outstripped their supply.”21
Notably, it became the white man’s curiosity, rather than an interest in traditional Indian art, which drove the sale of the drawings. With Pratt handling the sale of such drawings, the Indians were “allowed…the free use of the money they earn, and they do not spend it foolishly.”22 The Indians received the money earned and sent it home to their families or used it themselves. Eventually, the Indians had sold between $3,000 and $4,000 in Fort Marion souvenirs.23
Turning to Etahdleuh’s work in A Kiowa’s Odyssey, one can gain an understanding of the book as a whole as well as his style and how it draws together features of the Plains Indian pictographic tradition with aspects of Western art. Although the numbered drawings for A Kiowa’s Odyssey do not follow any particular order, they can be divided into the following categories; life and activity on the Plains before surrender, capture and detainment, transfer to Fort Marion, and life and activity as prisoners at Fort Marion. A survey of all of the drawings from A Kiowa’s Odyssey reveals that Etahdleuh worked mostly in graphite and colored pencil. Although his lines are precise and create the structure for his compositions, he also treats much of the surface with color, providing the viewer with an illusionistic window into a scene. His use of linear perspective and overall composition bears the influence of Western drawing techniques. Looking at the drawings as a whole, it is clear that all these works were completed while at Fort Marion, after the instruction and adaptation of such techniques.
Regarding the two previously unpublished sheets in The Trout Gallery, drawing number 11 (fig. 4, cat. 50b) presents a scene of the prisoners en route to Fort Marion. The typed inscription states, “When there was water, the prisoners were taken to wash and bathe.” Etahdleuh’s use of color in this ledger drawing is unusual and far beyond the traditional conventions of Plains drawing. As opposed to using flat, solid color, the artist combines red, green, and yellow in his depiction of the grass field. Etahdleuh has created a sense of depth and shadow using these colors, which provide the first applications of shading and perspective. The grass seems to be darker around areas beneath trees or further back along the pictorial plane. He uses the entire page to represent this scene, defining a landscape in which his narrative takes place, thus reflecting considerable Western influence. Although the general view is slightly skewed at times, distorting the image and creating a downward slope, Etahdleuh is careful to suggest more than one plane among the tents and wagons. The tents and wagons recede, creating a sense of depth and illusion.
The remaining ledger drawings in The Trout Gallery (12, 13, and 14) show similar attempts to suggest illusion through modulating color, texture, and linear perspective. It is most interesting to note the impressive foreshortening and perspective techniques employed in ledger drawing 12, where he depicts a train advancing through a city (fig. 5; cat. 50b). Ledger drawing 13 presents a landscape with trees and houses that recede into the mountainous horizon (cat. 50c). Etahdleuh also chose to use foreshortening, linear perspective, and modulated color to effectively suggest recession to the background. His skill is also evident in his rendering of the American flag, where he was careful to outline each white star with a bright blue background. Etahdleuh’s attention to detail is most evident in ledger drawing 14 (cat. 50c). Etahdleuh uses the entire length of the page to carefully draw the details of a train, bridge, and nearby town. Even though the typed inscription states that he had to imagine how the bridge was supported, his precise lines present a convincing rendering. His sense of depth and illusionism is apparent through the view of staggered houses of the town and the train visibly passing through the train tunnel.
A Kiowa’s Odyssey presents not only a visual narrative of Etahdleuh’s experiences, but illustrates Pratt’s intentions for the Indians. The album presents evidence of Pratt’s aim to acculturate the Native Americans and assimilate them into white society. While he responded to the Indian’s inclination to illustrate their struggles, Pratt enforced a strict abandonment of all native influences, denying them a part of their rapidly vanishing traditions. A Kiowa’s Odyssey reveals Pratt’s compassion for the Indians and his mission to reform them. Modern readers may find such tendencies contradictory; to Pratt they must have seemed entirely compatible.
1 Karen D. Petersen, Plains Indian Art from Fort Marion (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971), 156. Etahdleuh, which means “boy hunting,” was 19 when he was taken to Fort Marion. He became a notable member of the Kiowa and studied with Pratt at Fort Marion, the Hampton Institute, and the Carlisle Indian School. He was recognized several times in the Morning Star and subject for several photos. Etahdleuh was appointed Quarter Master Sergeant, in charge of government property. He was instructed to take care of the stores, issue food and clothing, and return tools. He also served as an intermediary next-in-command when Pratt was absent. See Sandy Mader, “Etahdleuh Doanmoe: From Prisoner to Missionary,” Cumberland County History (Summer 2004), forthcoming.
2 Petersen, Plains Indian Art from Fort Marion, Plate 6. This photograph is widely published and several vintage prints of it exist including one at the Beinecke Collection, Yale University.
3 Regarding “before” and “after” photographs, see Molly Fraust, “Visual Propaganda at the Carlisle Indian School,” in this volume: 19-23.
4 Beinecke Library, Yale University, WA MSS S-1174, Box 31, Folders 1, 4, 5, 9, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20; Box 32, Folders 25, 26, 28, 30. On the Yale drawings, see Marilee Jantzer-White’s catalogue entries in Plains Indian Drawings 1865-1935: Pages From a Visual History, Janet Catherine Berlo, ed. (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1996), 158-164. A third sheet (cat. 51), with a drawing on only one side, entered The Trout Gallery’s collection with the album. Unlike the other sheets in this set by Etahdleuh, this one does not have a stamped number in the corner, it is slightly wider than the other ledger drawing pages, the drawing is in ink, it is different stylistically, and it is inscribed in pencil (“Pleasure Excursion / St Augustine Fla.”) along the bottom, instead of typed at the top. This third sheet is attributed to Bear’s Heart, Cheyenne.
5 Beinecke Library, Yale University, WA MSS S-1174, Box 31, Folder 4.
6 Mason Pratt also had the bookbinder insert a color reproduction of Charles Marion Russels’ The Buffalo Hunt (The Trout Gallery, 190.,7.11.5) opposite Etahdleuh’s drawing, Killing Buffalo (Kiowas) 26 (Beinecke Library, Yale University, WA MSS S-1174, Box 32, Folder 26).
7 Anna Blume, “In Place of Writing,” Plains Indian Drawings 1865-1935: Pages from a Visual History, Janet Catherine Bero, ed. (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1996), 40.
8 Blume, “In Place of Writing,” 40.
9 Pratt, Battlefield and Classroom, 118.
10 Pratt, Battlefield and Classroom, 157.
11 Pratt, Battlefield and Classroom, 118.
12 Pratt, Battlefield and Classroom, 184.
13 Kathryn M. Moyer, “‘Going Back to the Blanket’: New Outlooks on Art Instruction at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School,” in this volume: 30-34.
14 A third artist, Clark Mills, was sent to Fort Marion by the Smithsonian Institute to make plaster casts of all the Indian prisoners. These portrait busts were visible around the fort.
15 Pratt, Battlefield and Classroom, 134.
16 Elaine Goodale Eastman, Pratt, the Red Man’s Moses (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1935), 56. On Champney, see Moyer, “Going Back to the Blanket,” 32-39, and Stephanie Stockbridge, “James Wells Champney, Sunset Landscape,” Images of Transience: Nature and Culture in Art (Carlisle, Penn.: The Trout Gallery, Dickinson College, 2003): 32-33.
17 Petersen, Plains Indian Art, xv.
18 Marilee Jantzer-White, “Narrative and Landscape in the Drawings of Etahdleuh Doanmoe,” Plains Indian Drawings 1865-1935: Pages from a Visual History, Janet Catherine Berlo, ed. (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1996), 47.
19 Petersen, Plains Indian Art, xi.
20 Petersen, Plains Indian Art, 3.
21 Edwin L Wade and Jacki Thompson Rand, “The Subtle Art of Resistance: Encounter and Accommodation in the Art of Fort Marion,” Plains Indian Drawings 1865-1935: Pages from a Visual History, Janet Catherine Berlo, ed. (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1996), 45.
22 Pratt, Battlefield and Classroom, 157.
23 Moira F. Harris, Between Two Cultures: Kiowa Art from Fort Marion (Saint Paul, Minn.: Pogo Press, Inc., 1989). Presently, ledger books are seldom in the original bound condition. Because they gained such public interest at Fort Marion, pages of the books were taken apart and sold separately. Originally, the books were sold for $2.00 each. Upon noticing the popularity of such books, Pratt encouraged many of the Fort Marion Indians to continue producing ledger drawings.