Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Revisiting The John K. Bear Winter Count

Drifting Goose, chief of the Húŋkpatina, a winter count keeper, along with his people were placed onto the Crow Creek Indian Reservation. 
The Drifting Goose Winter Count
John K. Bear Winter Count Revisited

By Dakota Wind
In 1976, James H. Howard published his Yanktonai Ethnohistory And The John K. Bear Winter Count in the Plains Anthropologist. Howard counseled with native informants from native communities in South Dakota. The strength of his work is determined by two things: his informants and his scholarly research. Howard genuinely cared for the subject and people he wrote about.

There are a few things which must be revisited in Howard’s work: the arrival of the horse is one. This is important because it establishes the earliest record of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (the Great Sioux Nation) encounter with the horse, its location, which places the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna (the Yanktonai) at the mouth of the Čhaŋsáŋsaŋ Wakpá (the James River), and a date of 1692.

A few things must be re-interpreted. An example is the 1841 entry regarding Thamína Wé (His Bloody Knife). Howard calls this record an “anomaly,” and assumes this entry is in regard to the Arikara US Indian Scout, Bloody Knife, a friend of the infamous Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, from whom the latter learned how to converse in Lakȟóta, Sahnish (Arikara), and the Plains Indian Sign & Gesture language. This Bloody Knife is the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋ chief, not the Arikara scout.

I’ve employed the LLC standard orthography in this “update,” and have expanded or amended some of Howard’s entries. Howard’s general format will be used: Numerical year in the Common Era, original text, the text re-written using the LLC standard orthography, a word-for-word translation, a free interpretation, followed by cultural/historical narrative.

Some biographical information about Maǧá Bobdú (Drifting Goose) can be found at American-Tribes.com. Go visit this website for its great forum on the subject of American Indian history and culture.


Download the PDF document of "Revisiting The John K. Bear Winter Count." 

For whatever odd reason, the citations didn't carry over when I converted the doc to PDF. Please contact me if you'd like a copy of the original document. 

Dakota Wind is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. He is currently a university student working on a degree in History with a focus on American Indian and Western History. He maintains the history website The First Scout.



Friday, December 8, 2017

2018 Lakota Calendar

Bunting's "Moonstick" book showcases the counting stick tradition of the Lakȟóta. Sanford provides some wonderful illustrations for each moon. 
Haŋwí Wówapi Kiŋ Lakȟól Wičhóȟ’aŋ
A Traditional Lakota Calendar

By Dakota Wind
Bismarck, ND (TFS) - The New Year begins in spring when life returns, and lasts from spring to spring. A year is called Waníyetu (A Winter), because winter is the longest season on Makȟóčhe Wašté (“The Beautiful Country;” the Great Plains, and North America by extension). The new month begins with the new moon. A month is called Wí. Luminaries such as the sun or the moon are also called Wí. To differentiate between the luminaries, the moon may be referred to as Haŋwí (Night-Luminary), and the sun as Aŋpétuwi (Day-Luminary).

The phases of the moon are:
Wit’é (Moon-Died) The New Moon.

Wílečhala (Moon To-Be-Recent). The Waxing Crescent between the New Moon and the First Quarter.

Wíokhiseya (Moon Half-Of). The First Quarter of the moon.

Wímimá Kȟaŋyela (Moon-To-Be-Round Near-By). The Waxing Gibbous between the First Quarter and the Full Moon.

Wímimá (Moon-To-Be-Round). The Full Moon.

Wí Makȟáŋtaŋhaŋ Ú (Moon From-The-Earth To-Be-Coming Here). The Waning Gibbous between the Full Moon and the Third Quarter.

Wiyášpapi (Moon-To-Bite-A-Piece-Off-Of). The Third Quarter of the moon.

Wit’íŋkta Kȟaŋyéla (Moon-Wears-About-The-Shoulders Near-By). The Waning Crescent between the Third Quarter and the New Moon.

The Thítȟuŋwaŋ (Dwellers On The Plains; Teton; Lakota) regard the moon in a feminine sense. There is no “man on the moon,” but an old woman in the moon whom they call Hokhéwiŋ. When a ring around the moon appears it is called Wíačhéič’ithi (The Sun Makes A Campfire For Itself); when a ring appears around the moon they say that Hokhéwiŋ has vigorously stirred her pot and the light has spilled out and around her lodge.

Wíačhéič’ithi is also a reference to sundogs. Long ago, a man went out to pray when the cold gray winter seemed to linger too long. The constant bleak gray days began to effect the people’s dreams. He came back and instructed the camp to select two groups of youth to go out east of camp and build to fires, then to return. Everyone came together in the center of camp and prayed. The sun broke through the clouds and as it rose into the sky, the two fires rose into the sky with it. For the Húŋkpapȟa, the sundog is a promise of hope and light.

The Thítȟuŋwaŋ have two differing explanations for the cycles of the moon. The Húŋkpapȟa say that a large Itȟúŋkala (mouse) with a pointed nose gradually eats away the lodge of Haŋwí until there is nothing left (the waning of the moon). Haŋwí then has to reconstruct her lodge (the waxing of the moon). The Oglála say that Haŋwí draws her shawl over either side of her face as Wí approaches her or withdraws from her.

Like other cultures, the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ recognize four seasons. These are: Wétu (Spring) which is two months; Blokétu (Summer) which is four months; Ptaŋyétu (Fall) which is two months; Waníyetu (Winter) which is five months. The changes of seasons are caused by the eternal conflict of two brothers: Wazíya (the North) and Ókaǧa (the South). If Wazíya plays his flute during summer rains, he causes it to freeze, making hail. When Wazíya wins we have winter; when Ókaǧa wins we have summer.

The Očhéthi Šakówiŋ used to keep track of the days, months, and year with Čhaŋwíyawa (Counting Stick/s). Some might use thirteen sticks, one for each month in the lunar year; others might just use one willow switch and notch it (one for a day, or one for each month). Čhaŋwíyawa are recognized more for their use in hand games (a traditional guessing game) than for tracking time.

This calendar includes Memorial days of massacres and conflicts. This 2018 moon calendar overlaps with part of December 2017 through part of January 2019. Note: All but eight photos were taken by me, two (4 & 9) come from the website Pixabay, the first comes from Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and the Leonid Meteor Shower comes from SPACE. Download the calendar for yourself and print (11"x17").
















Dakota Wind is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. He is currently a university student working on a degree in History with a focus on American Indian and Western History. He maintains the history website The First Scout


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

History Of North Dakota, A Book Review

History of North Dakota, A Book Review
Environment Determines Character
By Dakota Wind
Robinson, Elwyn Burns. History of North Dakota. Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1966. Out of print. (Fargo, ND; ND Institute for Regional Studies, 1995. $40.00.) 610 pages + viii. Preface, table of contents, maps, illustrations.

Robinson’s History of North Dakota is a dense read. Twenty-three chapters take readers on a journey of remoteness from the formation of the prairie, a modest “Indian” occupation, through exploration, settlement, booms, WWI & WWII, to the culture and character of North Dakotans.

Robinson’s History’ features indigenous history, but the human occupation history only begins with Pierre La Vérendry’s 1838 fall encounter with the Mandan on the Missouri River. Robinson disguises ecological history as pre-contact history, describing the conditions in which the Indians lived and hunted.

The Opening of the West unapologetically includes frontier military history. Lt. Col. Armstrong gets a two-page mention here regarding his role in the Black Hills Expedition of 1874, and his last failed command which concluded at the Little Bighorn Fight of 1876. The military was placed in an odd position, to the natives, the forts represented a permanent advancing presence, and to the pioneer, the military represented the furthest most edge of western civilization. Robinson describes the military as practically impotent, a token might that couldn’t hold back its own citizens from entering and occupying the Black Hills, but a might that was exercised only after American citizens died in escalating conflict with the natives.

The environment, the dry, semi-arid plains, industrial technology, and a desperate need to help and be helped or utterly fail developed the cooperative character of the North Dakota farmer. If environment determined the pioneer spirit, it would seem that one could make the argument that the vast open plains did the very same to the indigenous for millennia. One simply couldn’t survive or progress without the help of another soul. For farmers, this real need to cooperate extended beyond the social confines of church and field, and developed into cooperations.

The completion of settlement teeters on a few things, not just immigration. War in the Philippines and Cuba, industrial and technological advances in agriculture, contributed to the development and settlement of the plains.

The Character of a People offers an answer to the spirit of North Dakota citizens: common experience and conditions of existence (the environment). It’s the environment that Robinson determines is the factor in character development and cites the work of psychologist and part-time ethnohistorian Dr. James H. Howard, that even the natives were affected by the environment because plains Indians differ in personality and disposition than their woodland kin.

Robinson touches on the “country mouse” mentality of North Dakota citizens, and feelings of inferiority and non-adjustment of rural citizens among city-folk, even among the city or townfolk in the state. Politicians reacted to their rural constituents by dressing down. The two characteristics that both the indigenous and colonist must posses are courage and faith in the future.

Robinson wrote his History’ for the citizens of North Dakota, perhaps to instill a sense of pride that the people of the state could live and thrive to a time then a history of book could reward their patience and faith. Though Robinson recognizes the struggle settlement, and acknowledges the displacement and confinement of the indigenous, his work is too optimistic. Fifty-seven years after the first printing of History and North Dakota is still dealing with the consequences of native dispossession and treaty issues decades before the territory entered the union as a state. Perhaps Robinson would attribute his optimism to the North Dakota experience.

Robinson’s book is dense, and it’s certainly not a recreational read. It’s dated material, but that’s probably why one should read it, for its insight to North Dakota as someone who’s experienced North Dakota; a retrospect from the middle of the twentieth century.



Dakota Wind is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. He is currently a university student working on a degree in History with a focus on American Indian and Western History. He maintains the history website The First Scout.