Who were the Fort Marion artists and How did the Fort Marion Drawings Originate?

In 1875 U.S. soldiers arrested 72 Indian warriors, mostly Kiowa, Cheyenne, and Arapaho, whom the army thought were the most dangerous Indians of the southern Plains.

To keep these men from influencing other Indians, the government sent them to Fort Marion, a prison in St. Augustine, Florida, thousands of miles from their homelands. During their three years in prison, the Fort Marion inmates were given pencils and paper, which they used to draw pictures for sale to non-Indian tourists.

Before the arrival of whites on the Plains, Indian artists did not have these art tools. They were accomplished painters, however, who used vegetable dyes to make pictures on animal hides.

The Fort Marion artists used the same simple lines and figures favored by hide painters to tell the story of their lives in Florida and their long, difficult journey there.

Through their drawings, they also recorded their treasured memories of their past lives as hunters and fighters on the Plains.