A sketchbook of drawings by a Kiowa Native American artist hit $396,500 in Heritage Auctions’ Ethnographic Art sale in Dallas last night (June 26).
The lot was offered with an opening bid of just $30,000. It’s the work of Etahdleuh Doanmoe, who was one of a number of Native American men captured and taken to Fort Marion in Florida at the close of the Red River War (1874).
The conflict was sparked by commercial hunters moving into the great plains region in the north of Texas. The buffalo that native peoples relied on were systematically wiped out for meat and skins. In response several local tribes (including the Comanche, Southern Cheyenne and Kiowa) joined together to fight the white settlers.
The US Army was brought in and the tribes were forcibly relocated to settlements. In order to crush the spirit of rebellion once and for all, a large number of key male figures were brought to Florida to be tutored in English and westernised.
Donamoe proved an apt pupil. He would go on to study at the Hampton Industrial Institute in Virginia and later became a teacher at the Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania – an institution designed to reprogramme Native American boys.
Officials in Florida provided paper and pencils to their charges after discovering many were talented artists. This style of work they produced is referred to as “ledger art” and acted as a record of their lives before and during their capture. It was considered highly collectible. Visitors to the fort could buy work directly from the inmates and many of these artists went on to have successful careers.
The sketchbook contains illustrations documenting Donamoe’s time at the fort, as well as beautiful renderings of scenes from his life on the plains – including hunts, battles and portraits of family members.