Between the Lines: Art From the No Horse Ledger Book presents a selection of 28 drawings from a Cheyenne/Arapaho ledger book created between the late 1870s and 1882. Painting has long been utilized as a tool by Indigenous peoples in passing down knowledge and sharing cultural stories. As settler Americans expanded into the Great Plains, the artistic painting traditions, once done with pigments on rock and animal hides, were re-created between the lines of accounting books, or ledgers. Graphite and colored pencil, ink and watercolor paints became the media through which stories of bravery were told.
The No Horse ledger book is named for the Cheyenne/Arapaho man who is thought to have been the initial artist to draw in the book. The artist would have shared the book with his friends, who recorded their memories of historical events to be recalled in story by future generations. The art, potentially drawn by six artists, including No Horse, primarily depicts scenes of warfare, processional group dances and feats of horsemanship. The drawings were meant for a knowledgeable audience that would have been privy to the meaning of the regalia and warrior attire depicted. The drawings contain symbols that tell of the action in combat surrounding a deed of valor.
The No Horse ledger book is rare in that it has remained intact since 1882, when it was sold during a time of personal hardship for its owner. It eventually passed into the hands of the Trustrim Connell family living at the Darlington Agency in Indian Territory (Oklahoma). The book remained with the family for 100 years, after which it was donated to the Heard Museum. This ledger book illustrates the work of Southern Cheyenne artists and the individualism they expressed between the lines of ledger paper.