Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Long Soldier Winter Count

Waníyetu Wówapi Kíŋ Akíčhita Háŋska
Long Soldier Winter Count Revisited
By Dakota Wind
In 2007, editors Candace Green and Russell Thornton brought together in one publication "The Year the Stars Fell: Lakota Winter Counts at the Museum." This book features not just the winter counts, but interpretations of the pictographs, including commentary about the further meanings of various entries. It is obvious that the editors care deeply for these pictographic records. 

The Long Soldier Winter Count deserves to be revisited and compared to other Hunkpapa Lakota winter counts. Long Soldier's winter count seems to match up closely with the High Dog Winter Count, but there are some distinctions. This second look is also an attempt to put the narrative of each entry back into the Lakota language. 

There exists a variant of the Long Soldier Winter Count that has been studied and interpreted by Dr. Jenny Tone-Pah-Hote in the summer of 2004. Her interpretation of the MIA Long Soldier Winter Count may still be on the internet somewhere. 

I've employed the Lakota Language Consortium's (LLC's) Standard Lakota Orthography (SLO). Entries follow the format of year, the year's "name" written using the SLO, a free translation, followed by narrative or additional commentary. 

Get yourself a copy of "The Year the Stars Fell."

View a full-size copy of the Long Soldier Winter Count at the Sitting Bull College Library

Download the Long Soldier Winter Count Revisited.

Questions? Comments? Email me at tunweyathokaheya (at) gmail (dot) com.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Winter Solstice and the Midwinter Moon

"The Long Night Moon," or Winter Solstice, pictured above, a pictographic representation for the lunar month of the Lakota people. This month will last from Dec. 7, 2018, through Jan. 4, 2019. The crescent represents the moon, or month, the star represents the night, and the arc represents the length of the night. 
Winter Solstice and the Midwinter Moon
They Were Carried When They Fell
By Dakota Wind
The long star-filled nights were a time to remember the myth-history of the people. I imagine a family similar to mine, gathered around a glowing fire, watching the flame, feeling the heat, and listening to the voice of ancient authority in a line of grandmothers and grandfathers going back to their elders and those before them.

The first snow was celebrated. Men put on their snowshoes and danced in the fresh powder. The snow made for ease of hunting. The Lakȟóta explained the changing of the seasons as an epic battle between two brothers: Wazíya (The North) and Okáǧa (The South). As one retreated, the other gained ground. When Wazíya won, his breath blew across the landscape, and for as deadly and sharp his cold breath might be, he brought a blanket of snow under which Uŋčí Makȟá (Grandmother Earth) slept.

The High Dog Winter Count recalls the year 1800 as one of the most challenging years to survive. The summer heat was unbearably hot. The great gangs of bison went away, and hunting was poor. Flowers disappeared from the landscape, and the wind drank up the water. The birds refused to sing too.

The punishing summer was followed by a harsh winter.

Winter came, snow and ice were everywhere. According to the White Bull Winter Count, a group of Lakȟóta decided to move winter camp from the bottomlands of one river to that of another. As they moved over the high plains, a blizzard caught them. Gradually some of them began to succumb to the cold and fell. As one person fell, another lifted and carried him or her the rest of their journey. Kičhíč’iŋpi keúŋkiyapi, “They say that they carried each other.” 

This constellation is commonly known as "Auriga" is as it would be seen in the middle of the night during the Winter Solstice. The biggest star closest to the middle of the crescent is commonly known as Capella. 

By firelight and starlight, the Lakȟóta used the time of the long winter night to share stories like that of Wičháȟpi Hiŋȟphaya (The Fallen Star; also called “Star Boy”). The story of his mother, Tȟapȟúŋ Šá Wíŋ (Red Cheek Woman), and father, Wičháȟpi Owáŋžila (The Star that Does Not Move; “The North Star”) is fairly well known.

According to Ronald Goodman’s work in his Lakota Star Knowledge, Fallen Star was renowned among the Lakȟóta as “the Protector, the bringer of light and higher consciousness.” After becoming a father, Fallen Star ascended “a hill at night with a friend,” and told him that he was going to return home. Fallen Star laid down upon the hilltop and died. His spirit was seen a light that rose into the star world. “At some time in the past, all Lakȟóta acquired the gift of light he brought them.” (Goodman, 2017; 32) Goodman’s work says that human beings are composed of matter and light.

In 1967, Helen Blish published her thesis A Pictographic History of the Oglala Sioux, featuring the works of Amos Bad Heart Bull (~1868-1913), a noted Lakȟóta artist, amongst of what was a map of the Black Hills and other features including Pahá Ská (White Butte). White Butte is noted as being north of the Black Hills. 

Kapemni, an hourglass shape symbolizing what is in the heavens is also on earth. 

Goodman discusses an ancient central symbol strongly associated with the heavens and the world. This symbol is referred to as Kapémni (“the action is swinging around and around,” as with a warclub or bullroar), and resembles an hourglass. One half represents all that is heavenly, the other half represents all that is worldly. What is in the heavens is also present in the world. In the pages of Lakota Star Knowledge, this “mirroring” is demonstrated in a map of the Lakȟóta constellation Čhaŋgléška Wakȟáŋ (The Sacred Hoop) which demarcates the locations of landmarks in and around the Black Hills.

It is a general map; not everything matches up perfectly. Matȟó Thípila (Bear Lodge), or Devils Tower, is not actually within Khiíŋyaŋka Očháŋku (The Race Track), the edge of the Black Hills. The Race Track is the “mirror” of the Sacred Hoop. White Butte is not a part of the Black Hills, but it is north. It is a real butte. It is also the hill upon which Fallen Star made his journey back to the sky. 

White Butte, located in southwest North Dakota near the town of Amidon. 

Like Devils Tower, White Butte appears to be in the narrative of the Sacred Hoop, though it is not so on earth. Yet according to the map of the Sacred Hoop constellation in Lakota Star Knowledge, a star commonly known as Capella, the brightest star in the constellation Auriga appears as part of the Sacred Hoop.

Referencing Bad Heart Bull’s map, and tracking the sky from the Sacred Hoop to the North Star one “sees” the stars associated with the constellation Auriga “pointing” or “reaching” towards the North Star. The constellation Auriga appears to be Kapémni, or "mirror" of White Butte and the immediate landscape surrounding that beautiful plateau. 

The constellation is commonly known as Auriga. The brightest star in this constellation is Capella. If this were the Lakota constellation for Fallen Star it would seem that his arm is raised, perhaps reaching for his father, North Star. 

I suggest that Capella is the Fallen Star, and Auriga is his constellation.

The Lakȟóta share Ohúŋkakaŋ (stories from the distant past) and Wičhówoyake (stories, legends, myth) during the five lunar months of Waníyetu (the winter season), and during this moon especially, they share stories like the Fallen Star narrative. 

Fallen Star, wears a robe symbolizing the day and night, a bow under the edge of his robe. 

Long ago, before the reservation era anyway, the month which some might call December today, was known by some Lakȟóta as Waníčhokaŋ Wí (The Midwinter Moon). They might not have known the exact day, but could reckon the subtle shift in daylight when there was a little more of it and could track the general date with counting sticks; they knew it happened in the Midwinter Moon.

According to Vi Waln, “I believe the real day of prayer was observed on the winter solstice by the people with ceremony, food, and family.” Further, “Nature and the stars were monitored carefully to help with preparation for whatever time of year was upon the people.” And lastly, “Many Lakota people will offer prayer in much the same our ancestors did so on the Winter Solstice.” (Valn, Winter Solstice Is Sacred, 2011)

There are five winter moons in the traditional Lakȟóta calendar. After the Winter Solstice, it was time to gather red willow (eastern dogwood) to make čhaŋšáŋšaŋ, a traditional tobacco made from the inner bark of the red willow, and used for ceremony. 

In the heart of winter, in daylight, there sometimes appears the sundog. The Lakȟóta call it Wíačhéič'thi, which means "The Sun Makes A Campfire [For Himself]." Sometimes, during the winter nights, they see a ring around the moon, also called Wíačhéič'thi, only this is interpreted as "The Moon Makes a Campfire [For Herself]."

The New Lakota Dictionary lists the Winter Solstice as Waní-Wí-Ipȟá (Crest of the Winter Sun). The Húŋkpapȟa might call the same Haŋyétu Háŋska (The Long Night) as they called this traditional month Haŋyétu Háŋska Wí (The Long Night Moon).

However it is called this day, or this month, these things are certain: gather close together with family in observation or prayer, eat together, share stories, and carry each other.