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Lesson Plans (PreK-HS)

About Winter Counts

A winter count is a pictographic record of historical/memorable events for a tiospaye (community). The winter count, used by many Plains Indians, is a method of preserving history. Important events are recorded for future generations. The pictures, which are used as mnemonic devices, are arranged in chronological order.


Originally, the memorable events were recorded on rock (many paintings found on cave walls, canyons, and mountains throughout the Great Plains), on buffalo hide, deer hide, cowhide, and then ledger paper and muslin (cotton fabric). Natural dyes were used by the keeper to draw the images. The dyes used to record the images also changed over time. Berries, clay, plants, roots, and buffalo gall (liver bile), blood, and stomach contents were a few of the materials used to draw the images.


Each tiospaye designates a winter count keeper. (More)


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