A Pictographic History of the Oglala Sioux


A Pictographic History of the Oglala Sioux

Special edition, 50th Anniversary Edition

Drawings by Amos Bad Heart Bull
Text by Helen H. Blish
Introduction by Mari Sandoz 
Introductions to the new edition by Emily Levine and Candace Greene

648 pages
32 color illustrations, 458 b&w illustrations, 8 photographs, index


December 2017


$95.00 Add to Cart

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.

Author Bio

​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).


"This acclaimed volume has been out of print and difficult to access for many years. It is our good fortune that the new 50th Anniversary edition makes this important work readily available. . . . Anyone interested in Native American history, culture, and art owes a debt of gratitude to the University of Nebraska Press for publishing and then republishing this invaluable volume."—Ann Billesbach, Nebraska History

"This book is beautiful. It is beautifully organized, beautifully analyzed, and beautifully crafted. The University of Nebraska Press has produced, or more accurately reproduced, a wonderful work that reaches a broad range of audiences. . . . This endeavor was clearly a labor of love for all who worked on it. From the dual-textured cover, to the high-quality paper, to the generosity of the editor and the press in allowing blank pages to beautify the transitions between sections of text, this project produced a beautiful and invaluable historical work."—Jeffrey D. Means, South Dakota History

"This lavish 50th anniversary edition of A Pictographic History of the Oglala Sioux is indispensable not just for specialists, but anyone interested in American Indian history. Through a careful reading of Bad Heart Bull's drawings, Lakota history and culture come to life, offering a wholly Native perspective on this transformational time."—Bradley Shreve, Tribal College Journal

"This fiftieth-anniversary edition makes Bad Heart Bull's art and his work as a historian available to new audiences. It will remain a valuable resource for scholars in multiple fields, including Native American history, historical geography, and art history."—Christopher Steinke, Historical Geography

"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."—A. B. Kehoe, Choice

“The significance of Amos Bad Heart Bull’s work to our understanding of Plains Indian history cannot be overstated. It is an unparalleled Native account documenting Oglala Lakota life during the tumultuous period of the 1860s to the 1910s. This anniversary issue provides both enhanced illustrations and additional context from the past fifty years, making it even more valuable to the Native and scholarly communities and everyone interested in American Indian art, culture, and history.”—Christina E. Burke, curator of Native American and non-Western art at the Philbrook Museum of Art 

"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. Until this month, however, [the text] could only be found in libraries, private collections and, for a price, at booksellers. . . . To remedy that and celebrate a half-century of the book, a 50th Anniversary Edition of A Pictographic History of the Oglala Sioux has just been published. On shelves for a little over a week, the 648-page volume . . . reproduces and augments the original with newly reproduced images of the drawings and a pair of introductory essays."—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, Pop Matters

Table of Contents

Publisher’s Preface for the new edition
A Short History of Amos Bad Heart Bull and Helen Blish, by Emily Levine
Significance of the Ledger Drawings, by Candace Greene
Publisher’s Preface
List of Color Plates
List of Illustrations
Introduction by Mari Sandoz
Foreword by Helen H. Blish
Chapter I         The Artist and His Work
Chapter II       Dakota Histories and Historical Art
Chapter III      The Bad Heart Bull Manuscript as History
Chapter IV      Bad Heart Bull as an Artist
Chapter V       Dakotan Art and Thought
Chapter VI      Introduction to the Drawings
Chapter VII    The Drawings
Appendix:       Descriptive Listing of the Drawings
A Note on the Editing
The Artist and The Author
Note on Images

Also of Interest