Wiyohpiyata: Lakota Images of the Contested West

detail from ledger book.

Wiyohpiyata: Lakota Images of the Contested West

"...a riveting dip into Lakota warrior culture..."—Boston Globe

"...a complex sensory experience that simultaneously evokes and explores the historic and cultural significance of the vibrant pictures."—Harvard Gazette

native american man and woman looks at breastplate.

After the famed Little Big Horn fight, in which George Armstrong Custer was defeated by the Sioux and Cheyenne in 1876, the U.S. Army recovered a Lakota Sioux ledger book from the battlefield. It was filled with drawings by Plains Indian warriors. The exhibit presents colored drawings from the ledger with historic Lakota objects from the Peabody’s collections, and work by contemporary Lakota artist and co-curator Butch Thunder Hawk.

Curated by Castle McLaughlin and Butch Thunder Hawk

Butch Thunder Hawk reflects on ledger book art and blue roan horses.


Explore concepts of "West" in both traditional Lakota belief and American history and art, warrior societies, ledger books, and ledger art.

Download the exhibition brochure (PDF)

See a collection of objects from the exhibition



"A Lakota War Book ought to be in the collection of any serious student of the Northern Plains or the Little Bighorn."—New York Review of Books

The book by co-curator Castle McLaughlin is an innovative cultural analysis of the extraordinary composite document that inspired the Wiyohpiyata exhibition, a nineteenth-century ledger book of pictographic drawings by Lakota Sioux warriors found in 1876 in a funerary tipi on the Little Bighorn battlefield after Custer’s defeat.

Learn more about the book

Lakota war book from the little bighorn book cover.

Listen to a podcast with co-curator Castle McLaughlin. Read the transcript for "Reflections of An Anthropologist:  A Conversation with Peabody Curator of North American Ethnography, Castle McLaughlin", and listen to the story of how the exhibition came to be.

Top: Ledger drawing by unknown Indian warrior, probably Lakota, ca. 1865. Detail from Half Moon ledger book. A weaponless warrior in yellow body paint captures U.S. Army horses. Courtesy Houghton Library, Harvard University.