Happy Book Birthday to A Pictographic History of the Oglala Sioux!

Book Birthdays celebrate one year of a book’s life in tweets, reviews, and more. This month we’re saying Happy First Book Birthday to A Pictographic History of the Oglala Sioux, 50th Anniversary Edition (Nebraska, 2017).


About the Book:

Originally published in 1967, this remarkable pictographic history consists of more than four hundred drawings and script notations by Amos Bad Heart Bull, an Oglala Lakota man from the Pine Ridge Reservation, made between 1890 and the time of his death in 1913. The text, resulting from nearly a decade of research by Helen H. Blish and originally presented as a three-volume report to the Carnegie Institution, provides ethnological and historical background and interpretation of the content.

This 50th anniversary edition provides a fresh perspective on Bad Heart Bull’s drawings through digital scans of the original photographic plates created when Blish was doing her research. Lost for nearly half a century—and unavailable when the 1967 edition was being assembled—the recently discovered plates are now housed at the Smithsonian’s National Anthropological Archives. Readers of the volume will encounter new introductions by Emily Levine and Candace S. Greene, crisp images and notations, and additional material that previously appeared only in a limited number of copies of the original edition.


“This five-pound, 50th-anniversary labor of love reproduces all 414 ledger pages of Amos Bad Heart Bull’s annotated pictorial history of his Oglala Lakota people, with digitized prints of the glass plate photographs of the original… Bad Heart Bull’s annotated (in Lakota) pictures are a unique, richly and carefully detailed history of the Oglala during the Indian Wars and early reservation period.”—A. B. Kehoe, CHOICE

A Pictographic History of the Oglala Sioux was published in 1967, instantly becoming a landmark volume of Native history and art, a status that it retains five decades later.”—L. Kent Wolgamott, Lincoln Journal Star

“This 50th anniversary edition improves on the earlier version by sourcing many of the images to the original glass plate negatives of the reproductions, which had surfaced in the 1980s. The edition endeavours to utilize modern techniques to enhance the overall quality of these astonishing images and faithfully reproduce the attendant text, while also allowing the cumulation of decades of research since the original manuscript to respectfully deflate some of the attendant legends, and clarify details with the latest understandings. The result is one of the finest accounts of the life and times of these storied peoples available anywhere.”—Jeff Carter, PopMatters


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About the contributors:

Amos Bad Heart Bull (1869–1913) sought to preserve the story of his people through ledger drawings. He began his picture history during the 1890s and continued to add and revise his record until his death. Helen H. Blish (1898–1941) was a trained ethnographer who also taught high school English in Detroit between her visits and research trips to the Pine Ridge Reservation. Mari Sandoz (1896–1966) is the noted author of Cheyenne Autumn, Old Jules, and Crazy Horse: Strange Man of the Oglalas, all available in Bison Books editions. Emily Levine is an independent scholar. She is the editor of Josephine Waggoner’s Witness: A Húŋkpapȟa Historian’s Strong-Heart Song of the Lakotas (Nebraska, 2013), winner of the American Historical Association’s J. Franklin Jameson Award. Candace S. Greene is an ethnologist in the Department of Anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. She is the coeditor of The Year the Stars Fell: Lakota Winter Counts at the Smithsonian (Nebraska, 2007).


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