Joe Pulliam, Oglala Lakota

Patrick Joel Pulliam was born into and on the Oglala Lakota Nation during the 1960’s. He grew up in Pine Ridge, a legendary homeland region for the Plains Peoples. Having served in the U.S. Army, Joe’s Lakota name is Akicita Tokahe, meaning First Soldier/ Warrior. As a new father, Joe struggled with the escape-trap of substance abuse, but continued to develop as an artist. Beginning in 2003, as he started learning his People’s language and healing from substance abuse, Joe became a more traditional Lakota man, and eventually moved deeper into his artwork by focusing on ledger art.   

Joe ran camp at the Nebraska-South Dakota State Line. The White Clay Justice Camp was located next to the buildings of “White Clay,” NE, which had been ‘running liquor’ unchecked for decades. Joe organized and lead the camp. Their focus was twofold—providing a safety net for those who need a safe venue during their struggles with alcohol and lobbying-protesting the upcoming legislation/ court rulings that Nebraska is considering regarding making liquor sales illegal in the unincorporated, four building/ nine resident “community” of White Clay. In 2016, Joe organized and ran the Oglala Camp at the Standing Rock protests.

Daniel Long Soldier introduced Joe to ledger art and others who have mentored him include master artist Dwayne Wilcox.  Joe received two awards at the 2006 Red Cloud Art Show and then in Spring, 2016, his ledger work graced the cover of the Smithsonian magazine for The National Museum of the American Indian.  He sees his works as a contribution towards helping to preserve the traditions and culture of his People, of his Ancestors.

Joe feels an intense connection to the old ledger paper he works on, that it truly represents something from the early years of the reservation times. He states that the early ledger works offered a critical outlet for the artistry of the Oglala Lakota People after the buffalo skins disappeared and the Winter Count scenes could no longer be made.  Joe states that the ledger paper feels like the only paper that is ‘right’ for him to draw on, so he continues with this approach, rather than expressing his artwork on contemporary paper.