Museum Minute: "When the Buffalo Came Back"

Feb 21, 2020

The Plains Indian Museum doesn't only collect art from the past. Rebecca West, the curator of the museum, said their job is also to collect contemporary art like those of John Isaiah Pepion, of the Blackfeet nation in northern Montana.

“It’s based on what we call more traditional art forms. And when we say traditional, we mean these are art forms that have continued from prehistory to the present day,” said West. “They’ve changed, [but] they are still very influential and meaningful to different artists.”

Pepion’s “When the Buffalo Came Back” is made of a combination of different types of paper, paint and antique pieces. Pepion layered ledger paper and on top there are buffalo’s outlined in black.

“To explain what the ledger paper is, that's the paper government agencies and store owners would use to keep track of different rations and supplies that were going through their doors during the reservation era,” said West.

West said the work is personal to Pepion, and he has said how making these images drawn from the past give him personal healing.