Cheyenne people, who are two nations today, Southern and Northern, live in Oklahoma and Montana. Their 19th century relatives drew glyphic images on hide and then paper, often ledger books obtained from traders. Water in a plains ledger art scenery has importance in surprising ways.
Water is essential for courtship. Young women fetched water for their families every morning and evening, so
references to water suggests trysts. George Bird Grinnell writes about courtship, a woman would appear unchaperoned, “on her way to get wood or water.” The man “stepped up beside her, and threw his arms and his blanket around her, quite covering her person with the blanket. Then he held her fast and began to talk with her.” (Grinnell 1, 132; Wild Hog-Schoyen, plate 9). In an image attributed to Northern Cheyenne leader Wild Hog, a well-dressed man, his braids wrapped in otter fur, wears a bright red blanket. He accosts a woman wearing a fancy belt and dress. Her legs and face are painted red. This is no chance meeting, as both are dressed up. In the image, a blue circle represents a spring or small lake. Dashes lead away from the blue water, which are her steps. The steps meander, indicating the leisurely walk of the courting couple. They are in no rush to part company.