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Native Sun News: Lakota man carries on ledger art tradition

The following story was written by Karin Eagle Native Sun News Staff Writer. It appears in Eyapaha Today, a monthly publication of the Native Sun News. All content © Native Sun News.

Artwork BY/Quinton Maldonado

Maldonado: Ledger book art happened for a reason
By Karin Eagle
Native Sun News Staff Writer

Pre-reservation, the Lakota people used art in the most practical of ways. This ranged from winter counts for keeping family and tribal histories on buffalo hides, to decorating parfleche envelopes to store dried foods which helped to identify the owner.

Lakota artists used their skills to embellish their clothing, their horse trappings and even their day to day articles such as water carriers and cooking utensils.

Once the tribes were forced onto reservations, many avenues of those artistic expressions were lost to them. Traditional art supplies were lost to them, or rather, the ability to obtain these supplies were seriously hindered by reservation living. Many artists used their natural born ability to adapt to any situation, and started to look for the readily available resources. One of the elements discovered by the early reservation Lakota artisans was the discarded ledger books used for a variety of record keeping needs and the Indian artists used these ledgers for paper when hides and parfleche were not available.

Modern day artists have taken to revisiting this medium, finding and purchasing old ledger books at auction or at estate sales and second hand book stores. The majority of the artists are sticking close to the use of traditional color and symbols in an attempt to replicate and thereby preserving the actual artistic style of the original ledger art books.

One young Lakota artist has taken those skills and that style and created a bridge from one original generation to a new, younger generation of Lakota people.

Quinton Jack Whiting Maldonado, Oglala and Sicangu started his interest in art after attending a Monster Truck Show with his father, Clifford Whiting. Quinton immediately drew a Monster Truck on his t-shirt with such skill that he was deemed a child prodigy.

The interest in drawing and creativity continued through elementary and middle school and became a passion in high school after viewing the ledger art of Don Montileaux, Oglala.

The great-great-great-grandfather of Quinton is Woptuha, Horned Chips, the medicine man and brother of Crazy Horse. Quinton was raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation by his grandmother Margaret (Chips) Jack Maldonado and grandfather Manuel Maldonado. His great-grandparents Alice Chips Jack and Oliver Jack spoke Lakota and lived the Lakota way of life as well as participating in the old traditional ceremonies.

This background with a close association to an older generation reflects in Quinton’s art, as he calls forward old symbols for feminine and masculine entities or the traditional symbols for spirits.

Quinton is currently focusing his artistic expression on ledger art, including current topics as well as traditional topics using a spectrum of eye catching colors.

The history and research of the Lakota people that he has garnered over the years has influenced his art. His topics of the past include the 1868 treaty, forced assimilation through education, pride of continuing traditions of prayer, respect, humility and honoring children and elders.

The spiritual aspect of Maldonado’s ledger art comes from within his traditional upbringing.

“The Lakota way of life is one of being humble and being in daily prayer,” explains Quinton.

Among his contributions to the Lakota art scene include assisting in the compilation of a Lakota language book as an illustrator. More recently Quinton wrote and illustrated a book for Lakota that is written in both Lakota and English.

Maldonado has stepped through a door that is not often breached. He has taken an old style of art, one born of necessity and desperation to continue the soul’s expression of the Lakota artist, and brought it into the twenty-first century.

His unique blending of old and new is reflected in his more contemporary pieces, which are done on very sought after, hard to find, pertinent ledge books, such as the ones used in the original ledger art books, yet depicting modern scenarios and situations that today’s Lakota people are living.

Ancient symbols used a hundred generations ago are recreated anew with vibrate colors and color combinations. So many elements from two sides of a very long bridge, one would assume there would be a clash or conflict or contradiction. Not so with Maldonado’s pieces. He has found the finest line that separates the respectful and reverent from the crass and clumsy.

A Maldonado ledger art piece is definite and true to the medium. His work also inspires and encourages new artists to revel in the art their own heart longs to create. A whole new generation of Lakota artists have found their inspiration in Quinton Maldonado.

To inquire about current original pieces and prints, or to ask about commissioning Maldonado, he can be reached at (605) 455-1444 or (605) 441-2243.

(Contact Karin Eagle at

Copyright permission by Native Sun News

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