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Big Road Census (USA)

This is a Big Road Census.

This object is not part of the Cooper Hewitt's permanent collection. It was able to spend time at the museum on loan from National Museum of Natural History as part of Tools: Extending Our Reach.

It is dated 1881 or 1882. Its medium is colored pencil, graphite, and watercolor on paper.

The Oglala Lakota chief Big Road produced this pictorial roster after his band was assigned to the Standing Rock Indian Agency (in what is today parts of North and South Dakota), and the agent there demanded a list of his followers. Each man is identified by a small image suggesting his name, such as Bear Looking Back (top row, second from the left) and Low Dog (second row, first image). The leaders of family bands hold a pipe and pipe bag, while leaders of war expeditions brandish war clubs. This paper has served many purposes: to the government agent, this census was an instrument of control, while to Big Road it was an assertion of chiefly authority. Contemporary Lakota artist Arthur Amiotte used scraps of images from it in one of his signature collages, which combine visual traces from a tribal past to construct a wry commentary on Lakota history.

It is credited National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution NAA MS 2372 (Inv. 08631100).

  • Sampler (England)
  • silk embroidery on linen foundation.
  • Gift of Myra M. and William H. Mathers.
  • 2008-31-24

Our curators have highlighted 2 objects that are related to this one.

Its dimensions are

H x W: 41 × 34 cm (16 1/8 × 13 3/8 in.)

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Big Road Census (USA) |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=1 October 2022 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>