Native-designed fashion label uses Montana art

Ledger art is called a "Warriors Art" among Native American tribes from the plains. Famous figures like Sitting Bull used it as a way to keep records of war deeds. It's a form of art that's more than 100 years old

For local artist John Isaiah Pepion, it's very personal.

He uses authentic old ledgers for his artwork. He added that it is a way to bring history and modern times together.

"It has allowed me to tell my story and our story as indigenous people, rather than museums or institutions telling the world who we are. I'm able to tell the world who we are," said Pepion.  

Some of those stories are like those of missing and murdered indigenous women, like Blackfoot women Misty Upham, who was found murdered in Seattle a few years ago, and Ashley Loring HeavyRunner, who is still missing. 

"My family knew Ashley. She used to come over to my mom's and when she went missing I couldn't believe it. I come from a family of winter count artists, so to me it's like carrying on a family tradition but also just telling a story," said Pepion.

Now, his art is reaching a wider audience. He collaborated with a Montana fashion designer living in L.A, named Bethany Yellowtail. Yellowtail is originally from the Northern Cheyenne and Crow reservations.

Yellowtail sells clothing and home goods under the label "B. Yellowtail," and has even been featured in the LA Times. Yellowtail told the LA Times that her art is intended to inspire and support Native women.

Together Yellowtail and Pepion created ledger art silk scarves, and also printed the art on phone cases.

Pepion said it is important that people see inspired Native-made art instead of "Native inspired" art.

Click here to see the B. Yellowtail store and more of the Native-designed fashion and art.

Bethany Yellowtail is also featured in an ongoing documentary series about her work. 

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