Winter Counts

The Lakota tradition of documentation differs significantly from the European tradition. In the latter, histories are written retroactively and with intentional selection of events and players. In Lakota recording, a history is created in real time, year after year, in a winter count. They record a specific community’s experience through time, rather than an individual’s perspective, and depend on consensus for which events to record. Each year is recalled in one glyph representing the most important event of the year. As a result, Winter Counts provide a critical counterpart to European perspectives on history. They can be cross-referenced with each other and with their contemporary European texts.

Above:

Glyph from American Horse Winter Count, “The stars moved around,” 1833-1834

Left:

Detail of High Dog Winter Count