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Ledger art horse race selected for powwow poster
16 March 2005

BISMARCK, ND - The red horse and rider are half-a-length in the lead in a race across ledger page 114. Riders with long black hair streaming, horses in mid stride, they fly past the handwritten entries of what the treasurer paid from the county general fund in December 1936.

      It's a ledger book art drawing with a contemporary Lakota twist, titled "Faster Horses," selected to represent the 36th Annual United Tribes International Powwow in 2005. It comes from modern-day storyteller, artist Donald F. Montileaux (Oglala Lakota).

Faster Horses
The 2005 United Tribes International Powwow image, "Faster Horses," depicts a close horserace between mounted riders done in the ledger style with colored pencil by artist Donald F. Montileaux. Click on the image to view a larger version in Macromedia Flash format.

      "People of the horse nation loved to show their skills in different ways," said Montileaux. "These events were opportunities to place wagers. The two men in this drawing are in a heated race, and the event is most likely being wagered on by others."

      United Tribes hopes that Montileaux's design will appeal to those planning to attend the well-known powwow September 8 - 11 on the college campus in Bismarck, and to people who collect powwow mementos. The college produced 6,500 posters to promote the event.

      "This is the first time we've selected a piece of ledger art for the poster," said David M. Gipp, United Tribes Technical College president. "There is, of course, a modern revival of the ledger style. Don Montileaux's work is among the best. I'm sure it will be very well received."

      Ledger drawings appeared on the Plains in the 1860's, according to Montileaux. Stories were preserved in drawings on the pages of ledger books acquired from white people. Ink, pencil and watercolors on paper were easier media to use than stick and bone brushes on animal hides, especially as the buffalo disappeared.

Donald F. Montileaux
Donald F. Montileaux

      Montileaux's ledger art emulates the two dimensional designs his forefathers created during that time. The intense colors are what his ancestors would have used if they had access to the wealth of color available today.

      "Before language and the writing of words, a storyteller was also an image maker; in this way they were able to maintain the history of their society. I'm an image maker in this century," he said.

      The 11 by 17-inch ledger page for "Faster Horses" came from a 500 page, leather bound Treasurer's Warrant Book used in Butte County, South Dakota in the 1930s. A friend brought it to Montileaux and he created the piece in 2004. Other pages were used to make additional works, which can be seen at his website, www.montileaux.com.

      Montileaux, age 57, attended college at Spearfish, SD, and is primarily a self-taught artist. He received formal training at the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, NM, and interned with noted artist Oscar Howe at the University of South Dakota. He credits his personal friend and mentor, the late Herman Red Elk, as his primary artistic influence.

      Montileaux says he rekindles images of the Lakota lifestyle by depicting the people as they were. His mission is to portray Lakota people in an honest way as "people who hunted buffalo, made love, raised children, cooked meals, and lived."

      Work from his 40-year career literally spans the globe. The 1994 acrylic painting, "Looking Beyond Oneself," became part of the payload aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor. He has received nearly 20 awards and commissions and attended over 25 major art shows. His designs illustrate the cover of six books and can be found in numerous private and public collections and galleries.

      As an artist, Montileaux has been the topic of numerous publications and articles. He is currently a full time artist, illustrator, presenter and consultant on Lakota culture.

      He and his wife, Paulette Hudson, have three children. His art complimented a successful career in facility management with the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in his hometown, Rapid City, SD. He is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Pine Ridge, SD. His Lakota name is Yellowbird.

      The original drawing, "Faster Horses," goes into the collection of American Indian art at United Tribes, some of which is on display at the college's Cultural Interpretive Center. This is the first time a piece by Montileaux has been selected by United Tribes for its powwow.