EXHIBITS: Lakota Timekeeping

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Science  25 Mar 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5717, pp. 1847
DOI: 10.1126/science.307.5717.1847b

Today, photos, videos, history books, and newspaper archives help us hold on to the past. The Lakota people of the U.S. Great Plains relied on their memories and on winter counts, illustrated calendars that feature an evocative drawing for each year. Visitors can peruse a collection of winter counts and anthropologists can analyze their iconography at this new exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution. The records served as mnemonics, helping Lakota oral historians keep events in the right order. The symbol the count keeper chose to represent a particular year depicted an occurrence that everyone would recall. The site lets users scroll through 10 counts covering mainly the 18th and 19th centuries, such as the one kept by Battiste Good, a Lakota in South Dakota. Click on the drawings to read a description of what happened during those years. The 1849 symbol in Good's count records an attack on a Crow man disguised as a woman, and the 1850 illustration shows Crow warriors taking refuge on a butte after a reprisal raid.


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