Winter Counts


Waníyetu Wowápi Wičhóȟ’aŋ
The Winter Count Tradition


The winter count is a pictographic mnemonic device in which the Lakȟóta people recorded outstanding events. Each image represents a year and a story. Some Lakȟóta say that they would gather in the fall to discuss the year's events and to decide what to remember the year. Others, that they would gather in the spring, the beginning of the new year for the Lakȟóta people, when bison calves are born, when the new leaves unfold, when the ice breaks, and when the geese return.

The pictographic record was recorded on tanned bison robes in general, but as bison began to diminish on the Great Plains, the native peoples turned to recording their history on buckskin and cloth; it was recorded on a variety of things such as tipi liners and even the outside of the tipi.

The Smithsonian Institute has created a wonderful online resource called Lakota Winter Counts, which explains the winter count tradition and features ten winter counts from its extensive collections. Below are some articles I've put together about the winter counts. 



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And here's a write-up of creating a winter count using the Gospel of Luke: