Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Medicine Bear Winter Count

The Medicine Bear Winter Count is a part of the Native American, Plains Indian, collection at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH; Purchased through the William S. Rubin Fund, the Guernsey Center Moore 1904 Memorial Fund, the William B. and Evelyn F. Jaffe (58, 60, & 63) Fund, the William B. and Evelyn A. Jaffe Hall Fund.
Waníyetu Wowápi Tȟá Matȟó Wakȟáŋ
The Winter Count Of Medicine Bear

By Dakota Wind
HANOVER, NH - A new era quietly began in the 1880's for Medicine Bear's band of Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna (Yanktonai) on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation. The traditional homeland of the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna lies between the Mníšoše (Water-Astir; Missouri River) and Čaŋsáŋsaŋ Wakpá (White Birch River; James River), and south of Mní Wakȟáŋ (Water With-Energy; Spirit Lake) on the Northern Great Plains.

The vast herds of the great providers, tȟatȟáŋka (bison), were diminished to a few scattered ganges struggling for survival in Yellowstone country. The Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (The Seven Council Fires; Great Sioux Nation) turned to trading for canvas to make their lodges. Cloth replaced the great bison robe too, in their winter counts.

Medicine Bear was an itáŋčaŋ, one of four principle chiefs, of the Pȟabáksa (Cut-Head) division of the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna. He was forty years old when the reservation era, the time of nothing, began. By then he kept a winter count, a history of his band of Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna, rendered in his own hand, on muslin cloth. 


The waníyetu wowápi, winter count, is a pictographic record, a mnemonic device, in which each image represents a year with a story of the people. It is not a calendar, not in the sense that you can look ahead and see the next year, but to look back at previous years for as long as the winter count has been maintained.

In the spring, the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna gathered and a council of leaders, medicine people, and elders would talk about the previous winter or winter. Major events were put forward to remember that year and tie all other stories of that year to that one outstanding event. It was brought out on occasion to share with other bands and tribes, the history of the years was shared communally.

The Medicine Bear Winter Count entered into private hands in the early reservation period. Nearly a hundred years later, the winter count became part of the Native American collection at The Hood Museum of Art at the suggestion of Mr. Joseph Horse Capture. In 2015, Ms. Singer Horse Capture ('17, Dartmouth College), an intern at The Hood began research on the Medicine Bear Winter Count.

Ms. Horse Capture offered this descriptive summary to accompany the winter count: The Great Sioux Nation,” or Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, which means “Seven Council Fires” are a large group of indigenous peoples who lived in the western Great Lakes Woodlands region and Great Plains of what is known today as North America.

[The] Očhéthi Šakówiŋ has seven tribes spanning this geographic area, each of which have several bands and speak languages that fall under the “Siouan” language family, which is why these various groups are all often mistakenly referred to by the homogenous name “Sioux.” This name derives from a mis-transcription by the French of the word the Ojibwe (a Great Lakes Woodlands tribe) used to refer to them.

One of these Seven Council Fires call themselves Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna, which means “Little End Village,” but they are most commonly known as the Yanktonai [,a French corruption of Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna]. Historically the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna lived between the Missouri River and the James River, and in Josephine Waggoner’s book “Witness” she states there are thirteen bands of Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna. These thirteen groups were split among three different reservations in the late 1800’s, Standing Rock (Wičhíyena), Fort Peck (Wačhíŋča Oyáte), and Crow Creek (Húŋkpathi). This winter count is from Medicine Bear’s band. They were confined to the Standing Rock Reservation and refer to themselves as Wičhíyena and speak Dakȟóta.

The Medicine Bear Winter Count has been correlated with the Blue Thunder Winter Count (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna),the High Dog Winter Count (variously listed as Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna and Huŋkphápȟa), both at the State Historical Society of North Dakota, the Chandler-Pohrt Winter Count at the Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit, MI, and the John K. Bear Winter Count (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna). Mr. Mike Cowdrey, a cultural expert, had also rendered a nearly complete interpretation of the Medicine Bear Winter Count. The Lakota Language Consortium standard has been used to write the text of each entry in Dakȟóta.

Here follows the Medicine Bear Winter Count:



Entries 1 through 10 of the Medicine Bear Winter Count.


1823 (1): Wahúwapa šéča ȟápi waníyetu kiŋ (Ears-of-corn dried bury-they winter the). That winter they cached parched ears of corn.

1824 (2): Ȟaȟátȟuŋwaŋ ób kičhízapi. Čhaŋkáškapi yuȟdéčapi ([Water] Fall-dwellers with fight-they. Fence-fortification to-tear-apart-they). They fought with the Chippewa. They tore their palisades to pieces.

1825 (3): Mní wičhát’E (Water many-dead). Dead bodies in the water.

1826 (4): Tȟaspáŋna Wakpána éd waníthipi (Apple-[Little] Creek at winter-camp). They made winter camp at Apple Creek.

1827 (5): Wičháakiȟ’aŋ na wičháša čheȟpí yútA, Isáŋyathi (Starvation and people flesh to-eat-something, Santee). In their desperate hunger, the Santee ate their own.

1828 (6): Wakáŋkadaŋ ób kičhízapi (Thunder-beings with fight-they). They fought with the Thunder Beings.

1829 (7): Makhú Šá čhaŋkáğa thípi káğA Hiŋháŋ Wakpá éd (Breast-bone Red trimmed-logs lodge to-build Owl River at). Red Breast built a cabin on Owl River (Moreau River).

1830 (8): Pȟadáni ób kičhízapi kiŋ (Arikara with fight-they the). They fought with the Arikara.

1831 (9): Nuŋpá kičhíkte (Two killed-each-other). Two men killed each other.

1832 (10): Thí tȟáŋka obléča káğapi (Lodge big square-sides built-they). They built a large cabin.



Entries 11-20 of the Medicine Bear Winter Count.

1833 (11): Wičháȟpi hiŋȟpáya (Star-Nation to-fall-down). The stars fell down.

1834 (12): Matȟó kičhí waníthipi, Čhaŋté Wakpá éd (Bear with winter-camp, Heart River at). They made winter camp with a bear, at Heart River.

1835 (13): Wičhíyena óta wičhákasotapi waníyetu (Wičhíyena many massacre-they winter). Many Upper Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna (Yanktonai) were massacred that winter.

1836 (14): Tȟatȟáŋka Iŋyáŋke tȟóka kte na thi akdí kiŋ (Bison-[Bull] Running enemy kill and camp return the). Running Bull killed an enemy and returned to camp.

1837 (15): Wičháȟaŋȟaŋ tȟaŋká (Smallpox big). There was an epidemic of smallpox.

1838 (16): Wičháȟaŋȟaŋ aktá (Smallpox again). Another epidemic of smallpox.

1839 (17): Pté sáŋ ktépi (Bison-[Cow] creamy-white kill-they). They killed a female white bison.

1840 (18): Tȟámina Wé Padáni ob kičhize waktékdi (His-Knife Blood Arikara with fight return-in-victory). His Bloody Knife returned in victory from a fight against the Arikara.

1841 (19): Itáŋčhaŋ ktépi (Leader kill-they). They killed a chief.

1842 (20): Tȟatȟáŋka Oyé Wakȟáŋ t’Á. Wakhéya kdézena uŋ wičháknakapi. (Bison-Bull Tracks With-Energy died. Lodge striped using above-the-ground [buried]-they). Holy Buffalo Tracks dies. They laid him to rest in a striped thípi.


Entries 21-30 of the Medicine Bear Winter Count.

1843 (21): Čhaŋčéğa Yuhá ečíyapi ptehíko (Drum Has called-by-name-them bison-to-attract). Drum Owner called the bison.

1844 (22): Wíŋyaŋ onákte (woman prairie-fire-killed). A woman died in a prairie fire.

1845 (23): Huŋkádowaŋpi (Singing-over-a-relative-they). They sang over someone in ceremony and made a relative.

1846 (24): Šuŋg’híŋzi áwičakdipi (Horse-teeth-yellow captured-return-they). They brought back horses with yellow teeth.

1847 (25): Wašíču nuŋpá kičhí waníthi (Takes-The-Fat two with winter-camp). Two white traders camped with them that winter.

1848 (26): Kičhí ktépi (Each-other killed-they). They killed each other.

1849 (27): WatȟókhiyopȟeyA čhúŋkaške éd waníthipi (To-Trade fort at winter-camp). They wintered at a trading post.

1850 (28): Wópȟetȟuŋ waŋ Wičhíyena ópi. Matȟó Núŋpa thíŋktes’a t’eyÁ (Trader a Wičhíyena wound. Bear Two murderer-would-be caused-to-die). An Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna wounds a trader. Two Bear puts the would-be murderer to death.

1851 (29): Heȟáka šá kútepi (Elk red hunted-they). They hunted a red elk.

1852 (30): Matȟó Wašté ečíyapi ptehíko (Bear Good called-them-by-name bison-to-attract). Good Bear called the bison.


Entries 31-35 of the Medicine Bear Winter Count.

1853 (31): Hé Tópa uŋ waŋ ktépi (Horn/s Four wearing a killed-they). They killed a man wearing a headdress with four horns.

1854 (32): Waníyetu kičhízapi (Winter fight-they). They had a fight that winter.

1855 (33): Phuthíŋ Ská wawáhoye kiŋ (Beard White to-order-things the). White Beard [General William Harney] gave the order.

1856 (34): Wapȟáha waŋ yuk’ézapi (Warbonnet in-particular to-shear-off-they). In a fight, he sheared a war-bonnet off [the enemy’s head].

1857 (35): Tȟatȟáŋka Ináži wiŋyáŋ áwičakdi (Bison-[Bull] Standing woman captured-returned-with). Standing Bull brought back a captive woman.


Entries 36-45 of the Medicine Bear Winter Count.

1858 (36): Waŋbdí Hoȟpí t’Á (Eagle Nest died). Eagle Nest died.

1859 (37): Wókapȟaŋ paŋȟya (Meat-block/pemmican very-much). Much pemmican.

1860 (38): Šuŋkawakȟaŋ óta áwičakdipi (Horses many captured-returned-with). They returned with many captured horses.

1861 (39): Hitȟúŋkasaŋ Dúta šuŋkawakȟaŋ óta áwičakdi aktá (Weasel Red horses many captured-returned-with again). Red Weasel returned with many captured horses.

1862 (40): Kȟaŋğí tópa ktépi (Crow four killed-they). They killed four Crow.

1863 (41): Akíčhita Pȟá Tȟáŋka kaškápi. Kdí na t’Á (Soldier/s Head Big imprisoned. Return and die). Soldiers imprisoned Big Head. He returned and died.

1864 (42): Wíŋyaŋ nuŋpá ktépi (Woman two killed-they). They killed two women.

1865 (43): Pȟatkâša Pȟá čhapȟÁ t’ekíyA (Jugular-vein-scarlet Head [Western Painted Turtle] stab to-cause-one’s-own-death). Turtle Head was stabbed to death.

1866 (44): Wóoyake Wičháša ktépi (Story Man killed-they). They killed Storyteller.

1867 (45): Waníyetu osní (Winter cold). It was a cold dark winter.


Entries 46 through 50 of the Medicine Bear Winter Count.

1868 (46): Itázipčho akézaptaŋ t’Á (Without-Bows fifteen died). Fifteen members of the Itázipčho (Sans Arc) died.

1869 (47): Kȟaŋğí wičháša wikčémna yámni wičháktepi (Crow men ten three men-killed-they). They fought and killed thirty Crow men.

1870 (48): Tȟatȟáŋka Witkó t’Á (Bison-Bull Crazy died). Crazy Bull died.

1871 (49): Witkówiŋ nuŋpá ktépi (Crazy-women two killed-they). They killed two prostitutes.

1872 (50): Wakhéya Šáya t’Á (Lodge Red-Painted died). Red Painted Lodge died.


Entries 51 through 58 of the Medicine Bear Winter Count.

1873 (51): Šuŋkawakȟaŋ nuŋpá áwičakdipi (Horses two captured-returned-with). They returned with two captured horses.

1874 (52): Wičháša zaptáŋ ahí ktépi (Men five came-here killed-they). They killed five of them.

1875 (53): Tȟóka nuŋwaŋki napá (enemy swim-home escape). The enemy escaped by swimming home.

1876 (54): Heȟáka t’Á (Elk died). Elk died.

1877 (55): Waníyetu snižé (Winter withering). A withering year. Šuŋk’akaŋyaŋkapi akíčhita tȟašúŋkawakȟaŋpi oyás’iŋ waíč’iyápi (Horse-riding-they soldiers horses-belonging-to-them all-of-a-kind to-take-things-they). The cavalry took all their horses.

1878 (56): Tȟašúŋke Máza ktépi (Horse Iron killed-they). They killed Iron Horse.

1879 (57): Wapȟáha Sápa šuŋkawakȟaŋ óta áwičakdi (Warbonnet Black horse many captured-returned-with). Black Warbonnet led a successful horse raid.

1880 (58): Phizí thí (Gall lodge). Gall lodge. Rev. Aaron Beede notes that this year soldiers had fired into Gall’s camp on the Tongue River.


Entries 59-61 of the Medicine Bear Winter Count.

1881 (59): Wakíŋyaŋ Nuŋpá ktépi (Thunder Two killed-they). They killed Two Thunder.

1882 (60): Kȟaŋğí wičháša yámni hípi (Crow men three came-they). Three Crow men came to them.

1883 (61): Matȟó Wakȟáŋ t’Á (Bear With-Energy died). Holy Bear died.


Entries 62-69 of the Medicine Bear Winter Count.

1884 (62): Makȟá k’apí (Earth dug-they). They dug earth.

1885 (63): Waȟúŋ Nap’íŋ t’Á (Burning Necklace died). Burning Necklace died.

1886 (64): Wakȟáŋpahomni ktépi (With-Energy-Turns killed-they). They killed Turns Holy.

1887 (65): Maȟpíya Hétoŋ mníwani kté (Cloud Horn Turning kill). Turning Horn Cloud was killed.

1888 (66): Išúŋmanuŋ t’Á (Fails-To-Steal died). Does Not Steal died.

1889 (67): Šuŋkawakȟaŋ waŋ kiíyaŋkdi t’Á (Horse a race-horse died). A race horse died.

1890 (68): Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake ktépi (Bison-Bull Sitting-Down killed they). They killed Sitting Bull.

1891 (69): Matȟó Napé t’Á (Bear Hand died). Bear Hand died.


Entries 70-71 of the Medicine Bear Winter Count.

1892 (70): Waŋbdí Tȟaŋka t’Á (Eagle Big died). Big Eagle died.

1893 (71): Šúŋkawakȟaŋ khí mázaska wikčémna tópa otóiyohi (Horse take-away iron-white ten four each-and-every-one). $40.00 for each horse taken away. Pté wakpámni (Cow a-distribution-of). Cattle were issued.


Entries 72-81 of the Medicine Bear Winter Count.

1894 (72): Isáŋyathi hokšína waŋ katáiyeičiya (Santee boy shot-himself). A Santee boy shot himself.

1895 (73): Waŋbdí Dúta t’Á (Red Eagle died). Red Eagle died.

1896 (74): Mázawakȟaŋ nakȟí’ȟma akdí (Iron-With-Energy To-Conceal-One’s-Own return). He hid his gun upon his return.

1897 (75): Čhaŋtéya t’Á (His-Heart died). His Heart died.

1898 (76): Šuŋká Haŋská t’Á (Dog Long died). Long Dog died.

1899 (77): Iŋyáŋšana t’Á (Stone-Red-[familiar-diminutive] died). Little Red Stone died.

1900 (78): Iyá Taníyaŋ Wiŋ t’Á (Voice Visible Woman died). Visible Voice Woman died.

1901 (79): Ičhápsite Máza t’Á (Whip Iron died). Iron Whip died.

1902 (80): Sihá Wó’heyuŋ waŋ tȟawíŋ ičhíu kté (Foot Bundle a his-wife with kill). Bundle Foot and his wife were killed.

1903 (81): Wamánuŋ šičá waŋ ktépi (To-steal-things bad a kill-they). They killed a thief.



Entries 82-83 of the Medicine Bear Winter Count.

1904 (82): Wapȟáha Sápa t’Á (Warbonnet Black died). Black Warbonnet died.

1905 (83): Háŋpa Zí atéyapi (Moccasin Yellow for-whom-they-have-for-a-father). They have Yellow Moccasins for their agent.


Entries 84-93 of the Medicine Bear Winter Count.

1906 (84): Čhetáŋ Wakhúwa t’Á (Hawk To-Hunt/Chase died). Chasing Hawk died.

1907 (85): Waŋbdí Wakȟáŋ katáiyeičiya (Eagle With-Energy shot-himself). Holy Eagle shot himself.

1908 (86): Sisíthuŋwaŋ mázaska kičhúpi (Sisseton iron-white [silver] to-restore-something-to-someone-them). The Sisseton Dakota received a payment due to them.

1909 (87): IyÁ Kičhúŋnipi t’Á (To-Speak To-Desist-Something-They died). They Stopped Talking died.

1910 (88): Tȟáŋka Sitómniyaŋ Dúta t’Á (Big All-Over-In-Every-Direction Red died). Big Red All Over died.

1911 (89): Wakȟáŋheža našlípi (Children measles-they). Measles struck the children.

1912 (90): ThikhíyA núŋpa (Houses two). Two houses.

1913 (91): ThikhíyA ilé (House to-burn). A house burned.

1914 (92): Wašíču núŋpa (White-men two). Two white men.

1915 (93): Šá Ič’íya t’Á (Red To-[Paint]-One’s-Self died). Paints Himself Red died.


Entries 94 & 95 of the Medicine Bear Winter Count.

1916 (94): Wíyaka Wašténa t’Á (Feather Beautiful died). Beautiful Feather died.

1917 (95): Matȟó Ókde t’Á (Bear Shirt/Coat died). Bear Coat died.

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