A poster donated by the noted Indian artist R. Lee White was rejected for exhibit and sale at the Night of the First Americans event in the Kennedy Center yesterday under curious circumstances.

White, a Brule-Sioux Indian whose real name is Randy Whitehorse, said he was asked by Retha Gambaro of Via Gambaro Gallery to contribute a poster. He said that he agreed, and signed a contract and paid for 1,000 copies himself, to be sold for $35 each, with 100 to be signed and to sell for $50.

White said he also donated three paintings valued at $3,000, including the original of the poster, "It's About Time."

The works were to be part of the benefit art show run by Amerindian Circle, a new foundation established by Gambaro, in an arrangement with the Council of Energy Resource Tribes (CERT), which sponsored the Night itself. White's work appeared at the show among 300 paintings and art objects valued up to $10,000.

But the poster couldn't be used, White said he was told, because at the bottom of the picture appear the words "Kennedy Center . . . Amerindian Circle . . . R. Lee White" and in small type, "This poster created for Amerindian Circle in cooperation with the Kennedy Center, Washington D.C."

Peter Segall, a CERT official, said, "We have an agreement with the Kennedy Center not to run any poster with the center's name on it," without approval. He declined to say whose decision had barred the poster and refused further comment.

Thomas R. Kendrick, the Kennedy Center's director of operations, said that when a group rents space at the center, as in this case, "They can put anything they want in their advertising about using the Kennedy Center as location. We have no control over that."

Manfred Baumgartner, whose gallery handles White's work, said there was no mention of prior approval in the contract, which calls for "a special inscription reflecting the purpose of the Amerindian Circle and the Kennedy Center event." Baumgartner added that he had turned in the poster last Saturday but was not informed of its rejection until Wednesday noon, when he was told by Gambaro. Gambaro said she was acting at the behest of the show's sponsors.

White said his main concern was for the Indian children who would get training in engineering, science and business through the benefit. He plans to sell the posters and set up a fund of his own if he can get them back.

His ironic and often biting works, which draw on 19th-century Indian "ledger drawings" and pictographs of primitive figures without perspective, have made him famous at 30, particularly in the Southwest. His large oil, "Custer Revisited," shown at the exhibit but not for sale, depicts Custer's Last Stand with the Indians driving cars around him.

The show's official poster, "Flag Carrier," by Kevin Red Star, a Crow, is a more conventional painting of an Indian on horseback carrying an American flag.