By Brad Reynolds

Art was a valuable tool to the continent’s First Peoples. On painted buffalo hides, they shared their stories. Through petroglyphs and pictographs, they ensured their history was not forgotten.

In the mid-1800s, ledger books became widely accessible in Indian Territory. With them came the foundation of ledger art. “For my tribe, ledger art was popular from around 1850 to 1910,” explains Terrance Guardipee of the Blackfeet Nation.

In 1998, he was one of five Native artists who set out to attain a common goal: to breathe new life into ledger art and to help it earn a place of respect within the art community. “From 1998 to 2004 at the Santa Fe Indian Market, only me and my mentor, George Flett, were doing ledger art,” remembers Guardipee. “Now there’s a whole section of the market for ledger artists, from super traditional to super modern.”

Along that spectrum, Guardipee considers his art more traditional, as it focuses on Blackfeet symbology, heritage, and culture. Before his oil colored pencils ever touch paper, a collage of historical documents (including maps, receipts, and letters) is assembled. These inspire the subject matter that Guardipee paints upon them. “I like to be different from everyone else, but my focus is primarily on preservation,” he says. “My art exposes others to my culture and belief system.”

Guardipee is encouraged to see other Native artists take up ledger art and make it their own. “It’s cool to watch ledger art grow and expand,” says Guardipee. “ We will never let it die again.”
His work is featured at the Autry Museum’s Masters Show, and he is honored that Pendleton selected one of his designs to appear on their blankets.

Terrance Guardipee is showing in Booth BOTW #19 at the Great Western Art Show in Great Falls. For more info, visit

Interested in Advertising?

You've made a great decision! Send us a message and we'll be in touch.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt