The Chandler-Pohrt Winter-Count,
Detroit Institute of Arts

Interpretation of Pictographs

Linea Sundstrom
Day Star Research
1320 E. Lake Bluff
Shorewood WI 53211
(414) 963-0288

Winter Count - 1890/1900 Dakota Sioux
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard A. Pohrt
Photograph © 1989 The Detroit Institute of Arts - Used With Permission
(Larger Image of this Wintercount)


© Copyright 1998 by Linea Sundstrom

The Chandler-Pohrt Winter-Count, Detroit Institute of Arts

The Chandler-Pohrt winter-count comprises pictographs and Dakota year names written and drawn in ink and colored pencil on cotton muslin. Milford G. Chandler purchased the winter count at Fort Totten Reservation in North Dakota in the 1930s (Penney 1992:288). It currently is curated at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit , Michigan . The winter-count appears to be of Yanktonai affiliation. Early events shown on the winter-count correspond well with other Yanktonai histories. Later, many Hunkpapa events are shown. This reflects the close affiliation of the Yanktonai and Hunkpapas for much of the nineteenth century. The year-names are written in the Dakota dialect, rather than the Nakota dialect actually spoken by Yanktonais. This does not call the Yanktonai affiliation into question. The mission schools taught children to write in the Dakota dialect, because no Nakota dictionary had been compiled at that time.

The transliterations that make up the Dakota text are, unsurprisingly, different from what might be considered standard forms. In fact, there still is no universally agreed upon system for writing the various Dakota dialects. This presents a challenge to the translator, who must be flexible in reading the recorded phrases. Nevertheless, most of the year-names were readily translatable. In a few instances the pictographs and texts for a given year do not match. This suggests that the written text was added to a set of preexisting pictographs. Perhaps the correct interpretation of some of these pictographs had been forgotten by the time the written text was added. As is true of winter-counts in general, the pictographs and year-names were merely mnemonic clues to more complete accounts of historical events. Some of these events are remembered in Lakota and Dakota history; others have been more or less forgotten.

Each entry on the winter count is presented in the following format: (1) year; (2) description of the pictography; (3) accompanying Dakota text; (4) English translation of Dakota text; (5) interpretation of the pictograph and comments on it; (6) a list of related entries from other Dakota or Lakota winter counts.

1823 Pictograph of corn plant

Wahuwas·eca ih·anpi

[Much] dried corn in cache pits.

This refers to Leavenworth 's punitive expedition against the Arikaras in 1823. Although the winter-counts almost universally refer to the dried corn plundered from the fields and village by the Lakota warriors, the real significance of the event was that, for the first time, the Lakotas allied with a white military campaign against other Indians.

1823 B-BM Pictograph of corn plant.

1823 B-G Dakotas aided General Leavenworth in an attack on the Rees.

1823 B-H Pictograph of corn plant.

1823 B-HH White man and Lakota attacked the Palani (Arikaras).

1823 B-SB Pictograph of corn plant and white man's hat.

1823 H-C A large quantity of corn was captured.

1823 H-IH They had bad corn.

1823 H-NT Lived on dried corn.

1824 M-LD Sioux take corn from Ree. ( Leavenworth 's attack.)

1823 M-ML Pictograph of white attack on earthlodge.

1823 M-S Unites State troops fought Ree Indians.

1823 M-TE Pictograph of white man's hat, bow and arrow, and log house.

1823 MB-IS Mature corn camp.

1824 N-E They cooked bad corn.

1824 N-EH They went with the whites to fight.

1823 O-AH They had an abundance of corn which they took from the Rees.

1823 O-CS They joined the whites in an expedition against the Rees.

1823 O-FH Much bad corn.

1823 O-G Much bad corn.

1923 O-IC They made winter camp with dried corn.

1823 O-NE Much dried-up corn.

1823 O-K Much corn spoiled.

1824 O-M Plenty of corn. Leavenworth and the Sioux attack the Ree.

1822 O-RH They went with white men to attack the enemy.

1823 O-WB Much dry corn.

1823 O-WC Old corn was plentiful.

1823 O-WS Much dry corn.

1823 S-F Whites and Dakotas fight Rees.

1823 Y-B All of the people when on the warpath.

1823 Y-BM Pictograph of corn in cache pits.

1823 Y-BT Found a lot of stolen dried corn toward Omaha country. [Blue Thunder variants also record this event.]

1823 YM-R Abundance of corn held camp in one place.

1824 Pictograph of log or frame structure

Wah·pes·a conkas·ke kii

Red Leaf fort was taken by force.

This year-name and pictograph refer to a battle between the Ojibways and the Dakotas at a locale near present-day Bismarck , North Dakota . The Dakotas discovered an Ojibway fort in their buffalo hunting territory. According to the winter-counts the Yanktonais soundly defeated their enemies and destroyed the fort. During the 1820s and 1830s, the Lakotas (and Yanktonais) and Ojibways were in a fierce and violent competition for the buffalo ranges of central North Dakota . Sporadic fighting continued up to confinement of these groups on reservations. The Dakota text is apparently in error. Rather than Wah·pes·a (Red Leaf), the term should be Wakpe s·a ( Red River ). The Yanktonais and Lakotas referred to this group, who were métis rather than Ojibway proper, as the Red River people.

1824 H-NT Threw stones and arrows through a fence at the enemy.

1824 Y-B There was a big battle this year.

1824 Y-BM Pictograph of fortification.

1824 Y-BT Found a Chippewa fortification. We beat them and tore down the palisade. [Composite interpretation of Blue Thunder and its variants.]

1825 Pictograph of Dakota half-submerged in water



This refers to a flash flood on the Missouri River in which an entire village of Yantonais was wiped out. This happened in the spring of 1825 when an ice-dam suddenly broke, flooding the bottom lands where the camp was located. The High Hawk winter-count states that about 300 people died. Nearly every Sioux winter-count records the tragedy.

1826 B-BM Many died in a spring flood on the Missouri .

1825 B-G Many Yanktonais drowned.

1825 B-H Pictograph of drowning.

1826 B-HH A flood on the Missouri killed about 300. A white man had a cabin the bottoms.

1825 B-SB Pictograph of drowning.

1825 H-C A big flood when many Indians died.

1825 H-IH They died in a flood on the Missouri River .

1826 M-LD Missouri River overflow. Many drown.

1825 M-ML Indians were drowned in a flood.

1825 M-S 30 lodges of Dakotas drowned in a flash flood at Horsehead Bottom.

1825 M-TE Pictograph of people submerged in water.

1824 M-WB People drowned.

1826 N-E Many died in a flood.

1826 N-EH Many people drowned.

1825 O-AH Many people drowned in a flood below Whetstone when an ice dam broke. Some escaped by climbing onto floating ice or trees.

1825 O-CS Many Dakotas drowned in a flood on the Missouri .

1825 O-FH People were drowned.

1825 O-G They drowned.

1825 O-IC People drowned during winter.

1825 O-K They drown.

1826 O-M Drowning of many Sioux on the Cheyenne River by a flood.

1825 O-NE People drowned.

1825 O-RH Some died in a flood.

1824 O-SM People drowned.

1825 O-WB There was a flood (on the Missouri ).

1825 O-WC Great flood and many Indians drowned.

1825 O-WS People were drowned.

1825 S-F The river overflowed an Indian camp; several drowned.

1828 Y-B Many people drowned at Horse Head.

1825 Y-BM Pictograph of people drowning.

1825 Y-BT All variants refer to flooding of Yanktonai village on the Missouri near Horse Head bottom.

1825 YM-R Many drowned.

1826 Pictograph of tipi with tree

Tas·pan ojued wanitipi

They wintered in an apple grove.

The winter camp was at a place called Apple Grove, near present-day Bismarck (Howard 1976:54). This was a favorite Yanktonai camping place from at least 1773 through the mid-1800s. Tas·pan oju is still the common Lakota name for Bismarck-Mandan , North Dakota (Howard 1976:54).

1827 Pictograph of Dakota with short lines radiating from his face

Isanyati akikantapi

Santees starved to death [akih·'antapi].

It is not clear whether the pictograph goes with this year-name, as this is not a conventional sign for starvation. Eastern (Yanktonai), northern (Minneconjou and Hunkpapa), and southern (Oglala and Brule) bands' winter counts all refer to food shortages due to extremely deep snow. An incident of cannibalism among the Santees is reported in some of the Hunkpapa and Yanktonai counts.

1827 B-G Wore snowshoes.

1827 B-H Pictograph of man in snowshoes.

1827 B-HH Buffalo hunting on snowshoes.

1827 H-IH They used snowshoes.

1827 H-NT Starvation winter. The Santees ate two of their own people.

1826 M-TE Pictograph of man in starving condition.

18827 O-AH The snow was very deep.

1827 O-FH They boiled rushes.

1827 O-G They boiled rushes.

1827 O-IC Winter of deep snow.

1827 O-K They boiled rushes.

1828 O-M Snowshoes were worn on buffalo runs.

1827 O-NE They used snowshoes.

1827 O-RH They hunted the buffalo on snowshoes.

1827 O-WB A winter of deep snow.

1827 O-WC They made snow shoes.

1827 O-WS Snowshoe winter.

1828 N-E Snowshoes.

1828 N-EH Deep snow; wore snowshoes.

1830 Y-B Big famine.

1827 Y-BM Pictograph of two corpses in a tipi.

1827 Y-BT The Santees were starving in winter. They killed two men and ate them.

1828 Pictograph of two Indians, one with black eagle or thunderbird name glyph

Kiyahiyaze istasapi kici kicio

To cause to dangle? arm [or eye] to wound each other.

This year-name may refer to the wounding of a Minneconjou man in hand-to-hand combat with a Mandan warrior. The Minneconjou winter counts refer to the man as Dead Arm or Lame Shoulder; however, this nickname obviously refers to this event. The work ista (eye) may instead be isto (arm). It is not clear whether the pictograph refers to the same event. If it does, it suggests that the wounded man was known as Black Eagle, Black Thunder, or some similar name.

1827 M-B Dead-Arm was stabbed by a Mandan .

1827 M-LD Dead-Arm was stabbed with a knife by a Mandan .

1827 M-ML Dead Arm was stabbed with a knife by a Mandan . [Pictograph of man with wound and shriveled arm.]

1827 M-MS Dead Arm was stabbed by a Mandan .

1827 M-S Lame-Shoulder was stabbed in the arm by a Gros Ventre with a sword.

1827 S-F A Minneconjou is stabbed by a Gros Ventre and his arm shrivels up.

1829 Pictograph of tipi next to log or frame house

Kanpi kicitipi

They dwelled together.

This may refer to a white man coming to the Missouri River country to establish a trading post. This man was known as Red Breast or Red Shirt. He built a log cabin, probably at the mouth of Rapid Creek near the forks of the Cheyenne (not the Moreau River as reported in the Blue Thunder winter count). The term Blestan seems to be a variant of Ogles·an , red shirt. The Oglalas took his name to be Bles·an , Red Lake . These varying versions of the trader's name suggest that the Indians simply made his actual name (Laston or Lestang) into a recognizable Lakota or Dakota term. Vestal's Hunkpapa winter count mentions that an accident befell a trader called Yellow Eyes in 1831. This was the year that Blestan's trading house blew up. Yellow Eyes probably was a nickname for Blestan. According to Hyde (1961:25), Yellow Eyes had a son by his Brule wife, who took on the same nickname.

This man's real name was Thomas Lestang Sarpy. He was also called Thomas Leston. He came from a prominent St. Louis family, whose name was preserved in Sarpy County , Nebraska , Fort John (Sarpy) on the Laramie River, and Fort Sarpy on the Yellowstone . Thomas was not destined to carry on his family's successes. In 1827 he was sent to work for the American Fur Company to escape an ill-advised marriage. He helped build the Oglala post at the mouth of Rapid Creek, probably in 1829. In January of 1832, Sarpy was killed when the post was blown to pieces when a spark or candle was accidentally knocked into a barrel of gunpowder stored under the counter (Platt 1966:279-283). In contrast to Hyde (1961:25), Platt (1966:282) reports that Sarpy had two daughters, by two different Sioux wives. One married Paul Narcelle, another trader mentioned in the winter-counts.

The Minneconjou winter counts for 1828 recount the coming of F.A. Chardon. This is the Chardon for which present-day Chadron , Nebraska , is named. He built a large earthlodge for his trading post on what came to be known as Earth Lodge Creek north of the north of the White River near Butte Cache (Hyde 1961:25).

1831 H-IH Yellow Eyes was killed at his house.

1828 H-NT Red Breast built a log house. He was a white man.

1828 M-F Chardran, a white man, built a house at the forks of the Cheyenne .

1829 M-LD A white trader (Chadron) built on the forks of Cheyenne .

1828 M-ML Pictograph of white man in earthlodge. Chadron built a dirt lodge.

1828 M-TE Pictograph of a white man inside an enclosure.

1832 N-E Yellow Eyes was killed at home.

1830 O-AH They saw wagons for the first time. Red Lake , a white trader, brought his goods in them.

1831 O-AH Red Lake's house burned and he was killed by the accidental explosion of some gunpowder.

1831 O-FH When the lake burned [i.e. when Blestan burned].

1830 O-IC When they made the first white houses.

1831 O-NE Red Lake burned.

1830 O-RH Blestan (a white man) came.

1830 O-SM Red Lake burned.

1830 O-WB First white man's house.

1831 O-WB Blestan burned.

1831 O-WS Blestan broke his leg.

1828 S-F A trading post opened in a dirt lodge on the Missouri below the mouth of the Little Missouri.

1829 Y-BM Pictograph of white man.

1828 Y-BT White man called Red Breast or Red Shirt built a log house at the Moreau River . [Composite of Blue Thunder and its variants.]

1830 Four enemy Indians with red paint encircling their faces

H·ewatamahica wicaktepi

Arikaras? were killed.

According to Vestal's version of the White Bull winter count, six Arikaras came to steal horses, but the Sioux killed them all. Reference to battles with the Crows and Bad-Arrow Indians apparently record different events taking place in the western regions of Lakota territory. (The Bad Arrows were a Shoshoni division.) The references to Gros Ventres also seem to record a different event, because the location (in a village) does not fit with White Bull's version of the killing of the Arikara horse-raiders. The attack on the Gros Ventres village seems to have been an Oglala offensive. Only the White Bull and British Museum winter-counts appear to refer to the event recorded in the Chandler-Pohrt count.

1830 H-C A large number of Crow Indians were killed

1831 M-LD Mandans kill twenty Crows at Bear Butte, S.D.

1829 M-ML A Yanktonai was killed by Bad-Arrow Indians.

1829 M-S A Yanktonai was killed by Bad-Arrow Indians.

1830 M-WB Six Rees were killed.

1831 N-E The killed many Crow Indians below the mountains.

1829 N-EH They killed many Mandans .

1831 N-EH They killed Crow Indians in the winter.

1832 O-AH They killed many Gros Ventres in an assault on a village.

1832 O-WB There was a battle with the Atsina-Gros Ventres.

1831 Y-BM Pictograph for "six killed."

1831 Two men engaged in hand-to-hand combat

Wicas·a num kiciktepi

Two men killed each other.

According to Mallery's Lone Dog winter count, Le Beau, a white man, killed another named Kermel. LeBeau was still living in 1877 at Little Bend, north of Fort Sully . Because neither the pictograph nor the text specifies that the men were white, it is not clear whether this is the event referred to in the Chandler-Pohrt count.

1832 M-LD Two white men fight to death on Medicine Creek , S.D.

1831 M-ML Le Beau killed Kermel. Pictograph of white man shooting another.

1831 M-S Trader named Le Beau killed one of his employees on Big Cheyenne River, below Cherry Creek.

1830 M-TE Pictograph of two men (enemies?) facing each other.

1831 M-F Two white men killed by a white man at Medicine Creek.

1832 Pictograph of log or frame house


Big, square-cornered house.

See comments for 1829. This appears to refer to the northern bands either living in or constructing log houses like those of the white traders.

1832 H-C First log house built by Indians.

1832 H-IH They made a big, square house.

1831 H-V Yellow Eyes (a trader) had an accident.

1832 H-V Lodges with roofs were built. Titanka obleca kagapi.

1832 M-WB The Sans Arcs first live in log houses.

1833 N-E They made a big square house.

1833 N-EH They made a big square-cornered house.

1833 Stars in sky

Wicahpi hinh·paya

The stars fell.

This refers to the spectacular meteor shower, November 12, 1833. The Indians thought this signaled the end of order and the descent into chaos of the universe, because the stars appeared to be changing places. The stars were thought to mirror the world below and to provide a key to the orderly movement of the seasons and the people. This event is recorded in Mandan and Pawnee winter-counts, as well as virtually every Lakota and Dakota winter-count (Howard 1960:29, 1976:47).

1834 B-BM Winter of the falling stars.

1835 B-BW Pictograph of star cluster.

1833 B-G Storm of stars.

1833 B-H Pictograph of stars falling around a tipi.

1833 B-HH "Moving" stars.

1833 B-SB Pictograph of falling stars.

1833 H-C Winter of the falling stars.

1833 H-IH Shooting stars.

1833 H-NT Stars fell.

1833 H-V Shower of stars.

1834 M-LD Many stars fell.

1833 M-ML The stars fell.

1833 M-S Dakotas saw magnificent meteor showers; they were much afraid.

1833 M-TE Pictograph of stars.

1833 M-WB The stars move.

1833 MB-IS Shifting stars.

1834 N-E Shooting stars.

1834 N-EH Falling stars.

1833 O-AH The stars moved around.

1833 O-CS It rained stars.

1833 O-FH Stars were shooting.

1833 O-G The stars fell.

1833 O-IC Meteorite shower.

1833 O-K The stars changed positions.

1833 O-M The stars move.

1833 O-NE Meteor shower.

1833 O-RH Meteor shower.

1832 O-SM Meteor shower.

1832 O-WB Many stars fell.

1833 O-WC Plenty of stars.

1833 O-WS Storm of stars.

1833 S-F The stars fell.

1834 Y-B The falling of the stars.

1833 Y-BM Pictograph of stars.

1833 Y-BT All variants refer to the meteor shower.

1832 YM-R The stars moved around.

1833 YM-R Falling stars.

1834 Tipi with a bear beside it

Mato wan kiciwanitipi

A bear visited them in the winter camp.

This refers to a winter camp on the Heart River that was frequently visited by a bear. The accounts and pictographs clearly indicate an actual bear, and not a person named Bear.

1834 H-NT Winter camp on Heart River . A black bear stayed with us all winter.

1834 Y-BM Tipi with bear inside

1834 Y-BT Winter camp on Heart River . Found a bear there; it stayed in our lodges. [The Blue Thunder variants are similar, but note that the bear was "not a friend."]

1835 Pictograph of travois with net

Iktonwanotawica kasatapi

Many Yanktons were wiped out [in battle].

The year-name refers to a bloody battle between a Yanktonai band called the Wood-Cutters or Wood Hitters and their allies against a combined Arikara and Mandan force. The Dakotas were well into Mandan-Arikara territory at the time, probably hunting buffalo. The reference to Blackfeet in the Blue Thunder winter-counts probably means the Lakota Sihasapa tribe and not the Blackfoot confederacy. The significance of the pictograph seems to be that the dead were brought home on travois. The Cranbrook winter count gives the year-name "Killing of the Sioux peace party" to correspond with a pictograph of a horse and travois. Swift Dog shows a dog travois and refers to a buffalo hunt in which dogs and travois were used. The consistent association with a travois with year-names referring to battle, however, would seem to indicate that the travois represents the killing of the Dakota emissaries and not a hunt. Although the Sioux winter counts record only 12 losses, the Mandan winter counts state that 30 Dakota/Lakota men were killed and 50 lodges destroyed (Howard 1960:29-30).

In another battle two Lakota pipe-carriers (war party leaders) were killed in an attack on the Pawnees. The latter fight is reported in the Oglala and Brule winter counts. This event has apparently been adopted as the interpretation of a horse and travois pictograph on the Hunkpapa Cranbrook winter-count. The original interpretation undoubtedly referred to the Yanktonai battle, not that of the southern bands.

1835 H-C Killing of the Sioux Peace Party [horse and travois].

1835 H-V Yanktonais almost wiped out in winter.

1836 N-E They killed a peace party.

1836 Y-B The Woodhitters fought with the Arikara.

1835 Y-BM Pictograph for many (14) killed in battle.

1835 Y-BT Blue Thunder and its variants state that Dakotas, Lakotas, and Blackfeet fought the Arikaras and Mandans on a flat below present-day Mandan , North Dakota . Many were killed on both sides, including 12 Sioux. Some texts suggest that some of these were wounded rather than killed.

1836 Two Dakotas , one with horse tracks above his head

S·aketepa [s·aketopa] wokiye wicatipi

Four Hooves peacemakers they kill.

I am not confident of this translation. The other winter-counts provided no clues as the meaning of either the pictograph or the year name.

1836 M-LD A Ree was killed by a Sioux.

1837 Dakota with pox

Wicah·anh·an tanka

Big smallpox.

This refers to the smallpox epidemic of 1837 which devastated the Upper Missouri tribes. The Mandans were reduced from 1600 individuals to only 31 survivors in this outbreak. The southern (Oglala and Brule) bands were relatively unaffected and barely mention the outbreak that nearly wiped out the river tribes.

1838 B-BW Pictograph of person with pox.

1837 H-IH Smallpox.

1837 H-NT Big smallpox.

1837 H-V Smallpox.

1838 Y-B Big smallpox.

1837 Y-BM Pictograph of man with pox

1837 Y-BT Had a big small pox sickness. No one die much. [Variants are similar.]

1838 Dakota with pox


Smallpox again.

Smallpox continued to rage on the northern plains for a second year. The reference to head sickness in the Roan Bear-Wind winter count suggests that this was the hemorrhagic form of smallpox which causes extreme headache and sudden, violent death.

1837 H-C Winter of the second smallpox epidemic

1839 Y-B Big smallpox again.

1838 YM-R Many people died from a head sickness.

1839 Dakota in dark shirt

Maza is·taya wanktepi

Iron Eyes (Eyeglasses) was killed.

This year-name refers to the murder of Waanatan (Waneta), an upper Yanktonai chief. Waanatan ruled his people with a heavy hand and was eventually removed from power (Denig 1961:32-34). He died at the hands of one of his own people. Waanatan favored white officers' clothing including a pair of green spectacles from which his nickname derived. He was famous on the Upper Missouri for his generous dealings with fur traders and was painted by Charles Bird King in 1826. The term for eyeglasses, is·tamaza , is reversed here.

1839 H-NT Man with spectacles went out and was killed in the hills.

1840 Y-B Eyeglasses (Wa-anatan) was killed.

1839 Y-BM Pictograph of man with eye glasses

1838 Y-BT Across from Fort Yates a chief named Waanatoka came. He had spectacles on. Was killed in the night. They don't know who did it; a man from far away. [Blue Thunder variants are similar.]

1840 Dakota with wound on chest

Tamina wewe ktepi

Bloody Knife was killed.

This year name is confusing. Howard (1979:49-50) gives the year as "Bloody Knife returned in triumph." He states that this was the same Bloody Knife who served as chief of scouts under George Custer from about 1870-76. The John K. Bear Yanktonai count agrees that Bloody Knife came home in triumph, but other Yanktonai counts state that Bloody Knife was killed this year. The Blue Thunder variants refer to a man called His Knife Broad, but show a pictograph of a knife with a bloody (not broad) blade. Despite Howard's assertion, this must be a different Bloody Knife than the one who worked for Custer, because he was not born until the mid-1850s (Paulson and Moses 1988:26). The long hair and black mark on the thigh of the man shown in the Chandler-Pohrt winter-count would normally indicate Lakota (long hair) and Brule (burned thigh) affiliation.

1840 H-NT The knife was full of blood.

1841 Y-B The Arikara Bloody Knife returned in triumph.

1840 Y-BM Pictograph of a bloody knife.

1840 Y-BT Killed the Ree, His Knife Broad, at the mouth of the Cannon Ball.

1841 Dakota? with wound on chest

Wicas·a itancan wan ktepi

A chief was killed.

No comparable event is listed in any of the winter-counts for this year, except the killing of Red Cloud's brother. Since the Chandler-Pohrt count does not refer to other Oglala/Brule events in this period, I do not think that the Oglala brawl is referred to here.

1841 O-AH In a drunken brawl, the Oglalas fought among themselves. This resulted in a division of the tribe, with the Kiyuksas (Cut Offs) separating from the others.

1841 O-CS The Oglalas got drunk on Chug Creek and quarreled. Red Cloud's brother was killed and Red Cloud killed three men.

1842 O-WB Ti topa wicaktepi Four Lodges was killed. (Feraca says, "There was a battle around four tipis," but I think that translation is incorrect. The ti element should be attached to the verb to convey that meaning.)

1841 YM-R Crooked neck died.

1842 Tipi with horizontal stripes

Wicakbeza oti wanka [Wakeya hdezena oti wankan]

The holy horizontally-striped tent dweller.

This year-name and pictograph clearly refer to an event recorded in other Yanktonai winter-counts. This is the death of a man named Holy Buffalo Track. He was laid to rest in a striped tipi. I am not sure whether the word "holy" refers to Holy Buffalo Track or to the burial tipi. It is not clear whether this is the same shaman nicknamed Medicine Hide. The Minneconjou winter counts for 1843 refer to a buffalo-calling ceremony. This would involve keeping a bison skull inside a tipi, but there is no evidence that this is the significance of either the pictograph or the year-name.

1841 B-BM The great shaman Medicine Hide died. [Pictograph of a hide.]

1843 O-RH They brought something sacred.

1842 Y-BM Pictograph of tipi with horizontal stripes,

1842 Y-BT Holy Tracks Buffalo died and was buried in a striped tipi; a big man, but not a chief. (Variants are essentially the same.)

1843 Dakota with alowanpi wand

Wasicun maza wadowan

Iron White Man was honored.

This year name refers to a ritual adoption ( alowanpi ) ceremony in which a respected or promising person was honored by a leading citizen. The text means, literally, "they sang over Iron White Man. "

1844 Women in a fire

Winyan was anog·uta

Woman was killed in a prairie fire.

This apparently records the death of a women in a prairie fire. This event is not recorded in any other winter-counts.

1845 Two Dakotas with an alowanpi wand


A ceremony to honor a respected or promising person.

This pictograph and year-name refer to the ritual adoption of a man named Pabobo or Tabubu (Hump Back) in the alowanpi (making relatives) ceremony. Apparently this man was also known as His Horse Runs. He must have been a Hunkpapa or Yanktonai. The word hunka refers to the respected status of the person honored in this ceremony.

1846 H-C His Horse Runs is honored

1846 H-HD Tabubu alowanpi.

1846 H-V Pabobo's adoption ceremony.

1847 N-E They sang over Tabubu [alowanpi ceremony].

1845 Y-BT Variant III of the Blue Thunder winter-count has been amended this year with the addition of a small hook-nosed figure with the words "hunka wayuta" written above it. This is refers to the honoring ceremony, also called the hunka or alowanpi ceremony.

1846 Y-BT Pabobo. Pictograph shows a man with an alowanpi wand.

1846 Black horse with a white face

S·unkakan hih·dokapi

Short-haired horses were destroyed?

I am not sure of this translation and found no clues in the other winter-counts.

1847 Two whites in a log or frame building

Was·icun num wopeton yankapi

Two white traders were at home.

This refers to two white traders spending the winter among the Hunkpapas and Yanktonais near the mouth of Cedar Creek. It was unusual for traders to winter over. They usually left in the late fall with their cargo of hides and furs, returning to trade again in the spring. One of the traders was nicknamed "Bad After Women," meaning that he was always attempting to seduce the Indian women. The trader thus was notable both for staying through the winter and for the trouble he caused among the Indians.

1847 H-C Winter camp at Blanket Creek [Hunkpapas got blankets from a trader]

1847 H-NT At the forks of the Cedar and Cannonball a white man had a house by the Indian camp.

1847 Y-BM Map pictograph showing fort at forks of a creek or river

1847 Y-BT Camped west of Cedar Creek with a white man they called "Bad After Women." [Blue Thunder variants are essentially the same, except they note the camp was near the Cannonball River .]

1848 Two Indians discharge rifles at each other

Odowan wanji kicikici kte

Each one wounded the other.

This year name and pictograph clearly refer to a hand-to-hand battle in which a Yanktonai and an Arikara both died. The pictograph shows guns, but the Hunkpapa No Two Horns stated that the fatal wounds were inflicted with knives and the Blue Thunder pictographs also show knives.

1848 H-NT Two killed each other with knives.

1848 Y-BM Pictograph of two Indians fighting

1848 Y-BT Two attack each other, Ree [Arikara] and Wiceyelo [Yanktonai]. Blue Thunder variants state that an Arikara and a Dakota killed each other.

1849 Frame or log building with Dakota in warbonnet

Titanka osniyata

Big house in the winter.

The Yanktonai Blue Thunder winter-count provides the most convincing explanation for this abbreviated year-name. It states that the Yanktonai Has Thunder was found dead in a log house of no apparent cause.

1849 H-NT We found a dead Indian in a dry log house somewhere then.

1849 Y-BM Pictograph of Indian corpse inside building

1849 Y-BT Wiciyelo living in log house, die without sickness. Has Thunder was his name. [Variants are the same.]

1850 Dakota with quiver shoots white man with arrow

Witkonasa was·icun wan kte[pi]

A foolish [blushing?] white man was killed; or, a mentally ill man killed a white man?

This certainly refers to an event recorded in the Blue Thunder winter counts. A white trader was shot, apparently for no reason, by a Yanktonai man. Although the white man survived, the Yanktonai chief, Two Bear, ordered the akicita (police) to kill the assailant. The word witko implies acting in a foolish or irrational way. Because the would-be murderer was summarily executed by his people, I suspect that he was what we would term criminally insane.

1850 H-NT A Dakota killed a white man with an arrow.

1850 Y-BM Pictograph of stabbed white man.

1850 Y-BT Camping below [present-day] Mandan [ North Dakota ]. Saw white man come to trade. Wiciyelo shot him with arrow. [He did] not die but killed the Wiciyelo. [Blue Thunder variants are the same, except giving the location as near the Cannonball River and stating that the chief Two Bear told his people to kill the would-be murderer.]

1851 Tipi with red elk

Heh·aka duta kici wanitipi

Red Elk wintered with them.

According to Howard (1979:56), this refers to an Arikara named Red Elk camping with the Dakotas one winter near the present-day town of Washburn , North Dakota . It was unusual for these traditional enemies to declare a truce.

1851 H-NT Pictograph of a red elk.

1851 Y-BM Pictograph of man with red shirt and elk's head.

1851 Y-BT Red Elk lived with the Wicijela (Yanktonais) near Washburn.

1852 Tipi with black buffalo

Matowas·te pte hiko

Good Bear performed a buffalo-calling rite.

This refers to a ceremony performed only in times of desperation when no game could be found. Such times generally corresponded with severe winters, although the hide trade was also a contributing factor to food shortages during this period of Lakota history. The Blue Thunder winter counts for 1852 refer to a very snowy winter, when they had to hunt buffaloes on snowshoes. No Ears, Short Man, Iron Crow, Whiteman Stands in Sight, Battiste Good, White Cow Killer, High Hawk, Thin Elk, Roan Bear-Wind, and White Bull also note extremely snowy conditions this year. White Cow Killer notes that a shaman called the buffalo in 1855.

1853 Lakota with four-horned warbonnet and feather staff

Hetopa wan ktepi

Four Horns was killed.

This year the Hunkpapas killed a Crow wearing a four-horned warbonnet. According to Blue Thunder's account, the Crow charged alone into the Hunkpapa war party to attain the glory of a warrior's death. After this occasion, all of the Hunkpapas who had taken place in the counterattack wore four-horned warbonnets to commemorate the occasion and to honor the bravery of the Crow warrior (Howard 1979:57). A photograph of Swift Dog wearing a copy of the warbonnet is included in Frances Densmore's Teton Sioux Music (p. 402). This Crow casualty, nicknamed "Four Horns" should not be confused with the Hunkpapa leader of the same name. The latter was Sitting Bull's uncle. He performed an alowanpi (adoption) ceremony for a son of Red Fish known as Ass or Noisy Walking Elk in 1856. That event was recorded in the Minneconjou, Hunkpapa, and Brule winter counts. His death is recorded in the Hunkpapa winter counts for 1887.

1853 B-S Pictograph of enemy warrior with four-horned warbonnet.

1853 H-C Man with four-horned war bonnet killed

1853 H-NT Four Horns was killed.

1853 H-V Four horns killed.

1854 N-EH Four Horns was killed.

1853 Y-BM Pictograph of man with four-horned warbonnet and feather staff.

1853 Y-BT They killed a lone Crow warrior who was on a suicide charge. This was on the Powder River .

1853 YM-R Hunkpapas killed an enemy wearing a four-horned headdress.

1854 Dakota and enemy Indian discharge rifles at each other


A fight in the winter.

This refers to a battle between the Yanktonais and Assiniboins on White Earth Creek near Fort Berthold . A Yanktonai warrior named Scraper was killed in the battle. The Oglalas also went to war in the winter or late spring, but this battle is not recorded in the northern winter-counts.

1854 B-G Killed five Assiniboins.

1854 H-C Bear Heart killed in a winter battle.

1855 N-E They fought in the winter.

1855 O-AH A war party killed one Pawnee, but froze their feet coming back.

1855 O-RH They went on the warpath and came back victorious but with frozen feet.

1854 Y-B White Bear's father was killed.

1854 Y-BM Pictograph of Dakota man with Scraper name sign.

1854 Y-BT Wiceyelo (Yanktonai) and Hohe (Assiniboin) fought at White Earth Creek above Fort Berthold . [Blue Thunder variants are the same.]

1854 YM-R Seven warriors killed. Many Rees killed.

1855 White man with arm extended

Putihinska waaks·ija

White Beard retained them.

Colonel William S. Harney was sent to punish the western Lakotas for the Grattan massacre. He attacked the first Indian camp he came to, on the Platte River at Ash Hollow. The camp was destroyed, 86 Lakotas were killed, and 70 women and children were captured and held hostage.

1855 B-G Little Thunder, Battiste Good, and others were taken prisoner by Harney.

1855 B-H Pictograph of tipi with three red flags.

1855 H-C White Mustache refuses Indians freedom.

1855 H-NT

1855 H-V White Beard seizes the Sioux.

1855 M-LD General Harney holds the Sioux.

1855 M-ML General Harney made peace with the Lakotas.

1855 M-S Dakotas made peace with General Harney at Fort Pierre .

1855 M-TE Pictograph of Harney hold a Lakota by the arm.

1855 M-WB White Beard is holding.

1855 O-FH Hornet would not leave the man he had killed.

1855 O-G Hornet would not give up.

1856 O-IC The distribution was withheld (the agent would not release hostages).

1855 O-K Hornet refuses to let them go.

1855 O-M White Beard, General Harney, holds the Sioux.

1855 O-NE Wasp retained them.

1855 O-RH White Beard would not give up his things.

1855 O-SM Pictograph of military man; text erroneously refers to Spotted Face.

1855 O-WS Hornet retains them.

1855 S-F General Harney makes a treaty.

1855 N-E White Beard would not give them up.

1855 N-EH White Beard retained them.

1855 Y-B White Beard gave the order.

1855 Y-BM Pictograph of white man with beard.

1855 Y-BT

1855 YM-R White Beard refused to release the people.

1856 Indian in warbonnet

Kangi wicas·an wan wapaha aykusapi

They tore the trailed warbonnet of a Crow man.

See Vestal's Sitting Bull Chapter 4.

1856 B-BM Pictograph of warbonnet, interpreted as "made many warbonnets."

1856 H-C Warbonnet cut in two in battle.

1856 H-V Warbonnet torn.

1857 N-E They broke a warbonnet.

1857 Indian roped by a buffalo

Tatanka iyotanke wayaka akdipi

Sitting Bull took a captive.

This refers to a raid on an Assiniboin camp in which Sitting Bull and his warriors killed an entire family except a young boy. The boy was adopted as Sitting Bull's brother and given the name Jumping Bull (Praus 1962:19).

1857 H-C A little enemy boy was killed.

1857 H-V Kills Plenty (Little Assiniboin, Sitting Bull's captive "brother") brought home.

1858 Eagle on nest


Eagle Nest [died].

Although they sustained an attack by a Crow war party, no Yanktonais were killed this year (Howard 1979:61). This year name commemorates the death of Eagle Nest, apparently from natural causes.

1858 H-NT Eagle Nest died.

1858 Y-BM Pictograph of man with eagle name symbol.

1858 Y-BT Eagle Nest died without sickness. [Variants are the same.]

1859 Tipi with four dark lines extending from one side

Was·na ota

Much dried meat.

This year name clearly does not match the pictograph. The pictograph symbolizes the killing of four persons in camp. The Yanktonai counts refer to the loss of seven warriors out of a party of eight that attacked an Assiniboin camp in Montana . Neither the tipi shown in the pictograph nor the number of casualties matches this event, unless it records the Assiniboin losses.

1861 B-BW Pictograph of three Lakotas firing guns at a Crow tipi.

1860 B-S Pictograph of reddish tipi with four arrows superimposed on it.

1860 H-IH They shot it out with those in a red-painted tipi.

1859 H-NT Red Robe returned; seven were killed.

1861 M-ML Buffalo were plenty and came near the tipis.

1861 M-S Dakotas had a unusual abundance of buffalo.

1860 M-WB Surrounding a red tipi (where they killed several Crows).

1861 S-F Buffalo very plenty.

1859 Y-B [Even] the turkey vultures starved.

1859 Y-BM Pictograph of Dakota man and seven casualty signs (human heads).

1859 Y-BT All versions show a pictograph of a warrior with seven casualty signs. The text states that a party of eight went against the Assiniboin and seven were killed, including Lone Dog. This battle took place in Montana .

1860 Eight horse tracks

Canhuta oqapi

Stump dug up.

Praus (1962:19) relates an incident to which this pictograph may refer. While camped near Chalky Butte, the best horse of the Hunkpapa chief Crow King was found dead from an arrow wound. Overnight, all the best horses in the camp were similarly killed. It was never determined who killed the horses, although Crow King may have killed some in retaliation for the loss of his own.

The Dakota text may translate, "Stump caused [someone] to be wounded." The subject may be Cantku (Chest), rather than stump, as the Eaton winter-count suggests. In this case, the pictographs and text appear to be unrelated. The killing of the famed Crow warrior Spotted Horse is recorded in the Oglala and Brule winter-counts, but this event was probably not of interest to the more northern and eastern bands. The Eaton winter-count does not specify whether Chest was praying in preparation for a war-party or for some other reason, but it does make clear that the jealous killing of the horses and Chest's devotions were separate events.

1860 B-G Spotted Horse and another Crow stole many horses. They killed him.

1861 B-S Pictograph of man with arrow in his back and four horse tracks. His name sign is a crow or other bird with an eagle feather attached to it.

1860 H-C Ten choice horses were killed.

1860 H-V Killing off the best horses.

1860 N-E Chest prayed ( Cantku waceliyelo ).

1861 N-E Highly desired horses were killed.

1861 O-WC The Crow, Spotted Horse, stole many horses and was killed.

1861 Eight horse tracks with a red weasel


Red Weasel.

The White Bull winter-count collected by Vestal (1934:267) gives a detailed version of the death of Red Feather. Near the mouth of the Red Water, a Sioux party was attacked by a lone Assiniboin. The Assiniboin was pursuing one Sioux when he stumbled and fell, accidentally discharging his gun. Red Thunder, Iron Hail, and Iron Plume counted coup on the downed Assiniboin before Brown Buffalo rode up and stabbed him repeatedly with a knife. The Assiniboin fought bravely to the last, pulling Brown Buffalo from his horse. Finally Big Skirt shot the Assiniboin dead.

Despite the similar names, the death of Red Weasel appear to be a different event. According to the Hunkpapa winter-counts, Red Weasel was a Hunkpapa leader. He was killed while on a horse raid against the Assiniboins on the Heart River . This explanation is consistent with both the year-name and the pictograph on the Chandler-Pohrt winter-count.

It is clear that while war raged between the Crows and the western Lakota bands for possession of the Powder River Country, the Yanktonais and eastern Lakota bands were equally occupied with driving the Assiniboins and Arikaras from the buffalo hunting grounds just west of the Missouri . The ability to wage war on two fronts at once attests to the growing strength of the Lakota/Dakota confederacy at this time.

1862 B-BW Pictograph shows death of a war-party leader.

1861 H-C Red Weasel was killed [while on a horse raid]

1861 H-NT Hohe (Assiniboin) stole many Teton horses.

1861 H-V Red Weasel (Hunkpapa chief) was killed (by Hohe on the Heart River ).

1862 M-WB Red Feather, a Hohe, was killed.

1862 N-E Red Weasel was killed.

1861 Y-BM Pictograph of 28 hoofprints.

1861 Y-BT Camped on the Heart River ; Hohe (Assiniboin) stole a lot of horses. [Blue Thunder variants also state that the Assiniboin stole many Yanktonai horses.]

1862 Log or frame house


They fought each other within the house.

This year name may refer to the Civil War. Although this event had only an indirect impact on the western tribes, they were certainly aware that the whites were fighting each other. It is also possible that the name refers to the Minnesota Uprising, when the Santees and a few Yanktonais attacked whites in their frontier settlements.

1865 N-E First time the white men fought each other.

1860 Y-B The white men assembled at war.

1862 YM-R Santees fought the whites.

1863 Dakota with four feathers


Big Brain [or Big Head] died.

This year-name refers to the death of a Dakota or Lakota man named Big Head. According to the Yanktonai winter-counts, this man was taken prisoner by soldiers. He died at home soon after his release. I have not found any other accounts of this event. The winter-counts seem to imply that Big Head died from his treatment at the hands of the US . soldiers. His nickname may indicate that his head was swollen from disease or injury when he was sent back home. He may have been a participant in the Minnesota Uprising.

1863 H-NT Big Brain died then.

1863 Y-BM Pictograph of man with large head.

1863 Y-BT Big Head a prisoner of soldiers. Let him come home and he died. [Blue Thunder variants are the same.]

1863 YM-R Some of the Santees were imprisoned at Fort Thompson .

1864 Two women

Winyan num wicaktepi

Two women were killed.

The pictograph may refer to the release of two white women captives by separate Lakota bands (Praus 1962:20). In 1865, the Oglala Two Face ransomed a white captive, a Mrs. Eubanks, from the Oglala "hostiles" and brought her to Fort Laramie , hoping for a reward or at least recognition as an ally of the white authorities on the Platte . Instead, the temporary commandant ordered Two Face and one of his associates hanged. The order was carried out, much to the horror of the Oglalas (and some of the garrison, as well). Beside the obvious injustice of this act, hanging was to the Lakotas an especially disgraceful form of death. In a separate incident in 1864, Mrs. Fanny Kelly, a young white woman, was captured by the Oglalas and bought from them by Brings Plenty, a Hunkpapa. An Army expedition was sent to ransom or otherwise rescue her. They forced her release at gunpoint and brought her to Fort Sully where she was released to her white family.

The year-name clearly refers to the murder, not capture or liberation, of two women, but I could find no reference to such an event in any of the winter-counts. Apparently, this text is an erroneous interpretation of the pictograph.

1864 H-C Returned a captured white girl to her parents.

1865 N-E They took the captive woman home.

1865 Man stabbed in the back


Turtle Head was stabbed.

This records the murder of a Yanktonai man named Turtle Head.

1865 H-NT Turtle Head was stabbed to death.

1865 Y-BM Pictograph of man with stab wound.

1865 Y-BT A man named Turtle Head was stabbed to death at Big Bend . This was murder. [Variants give the same event.]

1866 Dakota with wound on chest

Ohunkakan ktepi

Story [or an honored one] was killed.

Other winter counts refer to the wounding of Chief Gall this year. Gall was bayoneted by soldiers who were attempting to arrest him for stealing horses from an Indian at Fort Berthold (Praus 1962:21). Gall survived the attack, escaped, and ultimately avenged himself by taking several white scalps. I can find no refer to Gall being called Story; however, he would have been considered a hunka , one formally honored by his people. The Minneconjou winter counts record the death of their chief Swan this year; however, I can find no evidence that he was killed, rather than dying from disease or accident.

1867 Eclipse???


Smooth ice.

This year name refers to severe icing. Storms had covered everything with a layer of ice, making travel and everyday chores dangerous and difficult. Some winter counts refer to a woman breaking her leg due to either a fall or an ice-covered tree collapsing on her. When the horses could not get to the grass because of ice or snow cover, the women cut cottonwood trees and peeled off strips of inner bark to feed them. Other winter counts state that two boys froze to death this winter. The pictograph shows a dark circle with two small red triangles projecting from opposite sides of it. It appears to represent the solar eclipse visible in this region August 7, 1869, rather than referring to the icy winter of 1867-68. This eclipse was total in Lakota country and generated much worry, if not actual terror, among the people living there.

1866 B-BM Severe winter (pictograph of tipi and snowshoes).

1870 B-BM A great eclipse of the sun.

1869 B-G Trees killed them in winter.

1869 B-H Pictograph of woman with tree across her body.

1870 B-HH A falling tree killed a woman.

1868 B-BW Pictograph of dead woman with hatchet lying near a tree.

1867 B-S Pictograph of woman with tree.

1867 H-C Woman breaks her leg cutting wood.

1867 H-NT Children of Takes the Wood died.

1867 H-V Sleety season.

1871 M-LD Eclipse of the sun.

1869 M-ML An eclipse of the sun.

1869 M-S Dakotas witnessed an eclipse of the sun; frightened terribly.

1869 M-TE Pictograph for solar eclipse.

1867 M-WB Icy winter.

1869 MB-IS The sun died.

1868 N-E Much ice.

1870 N-E Solar eclipse.

1868 N-EH Much ice.

1869 O-FH Falling tree killed an old woman.

1869 O-K An old woman was killed by a tree.

1868 O-M An icy winter.

1870 O-M An eclipse of the sun this year.

1869 O-NE An old woman was killed by a tree.

1869 O-SM An old woman was killed by a tree.

1869 O-WC A tree fell on an old woman and killed her.

1869 O-WS An old woman was killed by a falling tree.

1869 S-F Eclipse of the moon.

1866 Y-B A soldier froze to death while hunting buffalo at Long Lake .

1867 Y-BM Pictograph of curled up corpse of child.

1867 Y-BT Hard winter; two boys froze to death. [Variants clarify that the boys were the sons of Takes the Wood.]

1868 Crow and Dakota discharging rifles at each other

Akezaptan wicaktepi

Fifteen were killed.

This year name refers to one of the bloodiest battles of the Lakota-Crow war for the Black Hills and Powder River country. Fifteen Sans Arc warriors were lost in a battle with the Crows on the headwaters of Arrow (Pryor) Creek.

A party of thirty Lakota warriors, mostly Sans Arcs, went against the Crows. Half were mounted and half were on foot. They came upon a Crow camp. While the mounted detachment advanced toward the camp, those on foot hastily constructed breastworks of logs. Before the breastworks were ready, the Crows discovered the Lakotas and counterattacked. The Lakotas were forced to retreat. Those on horseback were able to escape, but those on foot were killed. Those killed were: the Minneconjou Black Elk; the Brules Red Dog and Heart Take Heed; The Oglala Black Bird; and the Sans Arcs Eagle Man, Cloud Man, Chasing Hawk, Walks with his Pipe, Long Fish, Runs Against, Little Bear, Charging First, Brave Thunder, and Running Hawk (Vestal 1934:268).

1869 B-HH A fight with the Crows. Told First and fourteen others killed.

1869 B-BW Pictograph for death of Lakota warrior named Black Bird.

1868 B-S Pictograph for death of Lakota warrior Red Dog.

1868 H-C Fifteen Sioux killed

1868 H-IH The enemy killed fifteen [Lakotas].

1868 H-V Fifteen persons killed (by Crows).

1870 M-TE Pictograph for death of unnamed Lakota warrior.

1868 M-WB Fifteen persons were killed.

1868 O-M Fifteen Minneconjous were killed.

1869 N-E Fifteen were killed in battle.

1869 Three men submerged in dark band

Kangi wicas·a 30 wicaktepi

Thirty Crows were killed.

A party of 30 Crows killed a Hunkpapa from an encampment near the mouth of the Powder River (Praus 1962:21). The Crows retreated to a natural fortification in some rocks. The Lakotas charged and killed all thirty. The victory was hard won: 15 Hunkpapa dead and 18 wounded. The pictograph appears to show the Crows partially hidden in the rocks, with each individual representing ten men. Tally marks and other symbols on Lakota winter counts occasionally represent ten, rather than one of the item depicted. A more detailed account in given in Vestal's Sitting Bull , Chapter 16.

1870 B-BW Pictograph for battle in which thirty Crows were killed.

1868 H-C Thirty Crow Indians killed.

1969 H-IH The Hunkpapas killed many Crow men.

1869 H-V Thirty Crow Indians killed (near Spoonhorn Butte).

1870 M-ML The Hunkpapas killed 30 Crows.

1870 M-S Dakotas killed 30 Crows in the Black Hills .

1869 M-WB Thirty Crows were killed.

1870 N-E Thirty Crows were killed.

1870 N-EH Hunkpapas killed some Crows.

1869 O-M Thirty Crows were killed in battle.

1870 Dakota with wound on neck

Tatankawitko wonase ta

Crazy Bull died on the hunt; or an enraged bull killed a hunter.

The correct interpretation of this year name is not clear. The Yanktonai winter counts refer to the killing of a Dakota man named Standing Buffalo by one of his own tribesmen. One variant suggests that the killing was over a difference of opinion about policies with the US government. This Standing Buffalo cannot be the same credited with leading the Oglalas to the Black Hills ; however, the winter counts imply that he was an important man. The verb given here is ta (died), rather than kte (killed), so none of these interpretations seems accurate.

1872 H-NT Standing Buffalo killed by an unknown person up north near a river.

1871 Y-BM Pictograph of man with buffalo's head.

1872 Y-BM Pictograph of man with buffalo's head.

1872 Y-BT Two Bears went to Washington . Came back. Went to war. Standing Bull got killed by another Wiciyela [Yanktonai] or Hohe [Assiniboin] maybe. Clashed over policy to whites. [Blue Thunder variants also state that Standing Bull was killed by a fellow Yanktonai, but do not give a motive.]

1871 Two women

Wikos·ke num tapi

Two young women died.

The Cranbrook winter count provides the only plausible link to this year-name and pictograph. The details of this event are not recorded.

1871 H-C Shell Necklace kills a women

1872 Red tipi

Wis ·aya oti ta

Those dwelling in a red tipi died.

It is not clear what event is recorded here. It probably refers to a party of warriors being attacked in their lodge.

1874 O-M A hunting party were all killed in their lodge by Crows.

1873 N-E Turning Bear was killed in his tipi.

1873 Two white-face horses

Is·kona tawa ewicayayapi

His Horse's Knee? was heralded.

I am not sure of this translation and the winter-counts provided no useful clues. The terms for Utes (wicasa sapa) and Brules (s·icanju) appear nowhere in the year-name, nor does the word for horse.

1874 B-G Utes stole 500 horses.

1873 H-C Little Elk's horse is stolen.

1874 MB-IS Utes stole horses.

1874 O-CS The Utes stole all of the Brule horses.

1874 O-RH Utes stole horses.

1874 O-WB Utes stole horses.

1874 N-E They stole a while horse.

1873 Y-BM Pictograph of spotted horse.

1874 YM-R Many horses died.

1874 Five Dakotas with red face paint

Zaptan ahiwicaktepi

Five were killed in battle.

This probably refers to the loss of six Oglalas in a surprise attack by Crows in the Powder River country. This band was nicknamed the Loafers because they camped near Fort Laramie and "loafed around the fort."

1875 B-BW Pictograph of three Crows firing on a Lakota next to a tipi.

1874 B-S Pictograph of Crow counting coup on a Lakota tipi.

1874 M-TE Pictograph for "six Lakotas were killed in battle."

1875 O-FH They killed seven loafers.

1875 O-CS Seven of Red Cloud's band were killed by the Crows.

1875 O-G Seven Loafers [an Oglala band] were killed.

1875 O-K Seven Loafers were killed arriving.

1874 O-M A hunting party were all killed in their lodge by Crows.

1875 O-WC Five Dakotas were killed.

1875 O-WS Seven Loafers were killed.

1875 Four Indians and nine horse tracks

Toka kinuwanpi

Enemies stole [horses]; or, first time they were stolen.

This may refer to the confiscation of the Oglalas' and Hunkpapas' horses following the Custer fight in 1876. Otherwise I can find no event that provides a convincing match to either the pictograph or the year-name. More than any other, this event spelled the end of the old way of life for the Lakotas. They were perfectly used to having their horses taken away, but this was the first time there was no chance of recovering them or stealing replacements from the enemy. The Lakotas' social structure, as well as their economic well-being, was based on horse-ownership.

1874 N-E They stole a white horse.

1876 O-FH They took horses from Red Cloud.

1874 O-IC Ute Indians stole horses.

1876 O-IC Red Cloud's horses were taken away.

1876 O-G Horses were taken from Red Cloud [band].

1877 O-K They took Red Cloud's horses away.

1876 O-NE Red Cloud's horses were taken away.

1876 O-SM Red Cloud's horses were taken away.

1876 O-WB Red Cloud band horses were confiscated.

1876 O-WC General Mackenzie took the Red Cloud Indians' horses away from them.

1876 O-WS They took Red Cloud's horses.

1876 S-F Horses taken by the United States government.

1876 Y-BT Took all ponies away from Sioux by soldiers at Fort Yates .

1876 Black elk

Hehaka ta

Elk died.

The Brule winter-counts record the death of Good Voice Elk or Elk That Halloos Walking this year. Neither the pictograph nor the text provides a good approximation of this man's name.

1876 B-H Pictograph of man with Speaking Elk name sign.

1877 B-HH Elk Bawling While He Walks died.

1877 Earthlodge, or house covered with snow.

Was·ni waniyetu

No snow winter; or, deep snow winter.

Was·ma is "no snow"; wasma is "deep snow." The pictograph, showing a covered house, indicates that the latter is the correct translation.

1878 Log cabin with horse

Tas·unkemaza ktepi

Iron Horse was killed.

This event is not recorded elsewhere.

1879 Log or frame house with warbonnet and five horse tracks

Wapahasapa tawa ewicayayapi

Black Warbonnet was heralded.

This may indicate the death of an honored man named Black Warbonnet, but I am not sure of the translation. Black Warbonnet is a fairly common name, probably because it refers both to individuals and to a warrior society.

1875 O-WB Black Warbonnet was killed.

1880 Frame or log house with three tipis

Titonwan ouwicatapi

Tetons came to reservations?

The text and pictograph both imply that the Tetons (Lakotas) were together at reservations this year. This probably refers to the return of Sitting Bull's band from Canada . They surrendered at Fort Keogh (Tongue River) and then were escorted to Standing Rock Reservation ( Fort Yates ).

1880 B-HH First children were sent to school.

1880 B-S Pictograph of frame house with a tipi next to it.

1881 B-S Pictograph of frame house with a tipi next to it.

1880 H-C Indians ask for horses at Little Missouri [pictograph refers to return of hostiles to reservation].

1880 H-IH They returned to Tongue River .

1881 H-IH They returned to Standing Rock.

1880 M-LD Camped of the Tongue River for the winter.

1881 M-LD They stay for winter at Standing Rock.

1880 M-WB Camped on the Tongue River for the winter [surrender of Sitting Bull].

1879 MB-IS Children went to school.

1881 N-EH The people came back to the Tongue River .

1882 N-EH They came back to Standing Rock.

1880 O-RH First time they lived in a white man's house.

1882 YM-R Sitting Bull was brought in from the north.

1881 Frame or log house with two eagles on top

Wakinyan nupa ktepi

Two Thunders was killed.

This death is not recorded in other winter-counts.

1882 Frame or log house with three Crows and one white man

Joe hoks·ina s·ahiya owicauspa

Joe's Sahiya [tribe] sons broke away??

The pictograph and year-name do not seem to match. The pictograph is more in line with a year name from the Hunkpapa winter counts recording the visit of three emissaries from the Crow tribe. The term s·ahiya apparently refers to a tribe or band other than the Cheyennes proper. I found no event to match this year-name.

1883 H-C A peace party of three Crow Indians came to Standing Rock

1884 N-E Three Crows came.

1883 Log or frame house with white bear


Holy Bear died.

This death is not recorded elsewhere.

1884 Frame or log house with Dakota with a cloud or rainbow

Makaqapi [Maka k'api]

They dug earth.

This pictograph is similar to that for 1877, which apparently records very deep snow. The Dakota text contains the word "earth" or "land," but the meaning of the entire phrase is not clear.

1885 Frame or log house with Dakota holding a branch

Wag·unapin ta

Scorched top?? died.

This death is not recorded elsewhere, unless Scorched Top and Burnt Wood Face are versions of the same name.

1883 O-IC Burnt Wood Sticking to Face broke his neck.

1883 O-NE Burnt Wood Face broke his neck.

1886 Frame or log house with pistol and hawk shield name glyph

Wakanpahomini ktepi

Holy was killed at the [beef] issue.

This pictograph records the death of Hawk Shield. The year-name apparently refers to the accidental shooting of Holy during the beef issue at Pine Ridge. The cattle were released live into a corral. The Indians then rode them down as if they were wild buffalo and shot one for each family. Although this was great sport, fatal accidents in 1887 and 1888 soon halted the practice.

1884 B-S Pictograph of Lakota man with feathered shield name sign.

1886 B-S Pictograph of tipi with sign for "holy" and bison head.

1885 H-HD Hawk Shield died.

1887 O-FH Holy Wolf accidentally killed.

1887 O-G A shaman was killed accidentally.

1887 O-IC Brown Hawk accidentally killed someone by hitting him.

1887 O-NE Holy was accidentally killed.

1887 O-K Holy was killed accidentally.

1887 O-WB Again, a holy man was killed.(Should be "Holy was killed.")

1887 O-WS Holy was accidentally killed (during the beef issue at Pine Ridge).

1887 Frame or log house with three Dakotas with wounds on chests; one with a gun

Mah·piyaheton miniwani kte

Turning Horned Cloud was killed.

I am unable to identify this event.

1888 Log or frame house with Dakota with two feathers

Is·un manusa? ta

They failed to steal; or, Thief died.

The translation of this year-name is not clear. It may refer to the death of someone named Does Not Steal.

1889 Log or frame house with dark-maned horse

S·unka kan wan kiinyan kdi ta

Race Horse died?

It is not clear weather the person's name is Race Horse, or whether he died while racing.

1890 Log or frame house with two whites and a buffalo

Tatankaiyotake ktepi

Sitting Bull was killed.

Sitting Bull was shot by Indian police attempting to arrest him at his home on the Standing Rock Reservation in December 1890. He had allowed his people to participate in the Ghost Dance, which the frightened white officials attempted to halt through his arrest. The Wounded Knee massacre, at which Big Foot (a.k.a. Spotted Elk) and his band were killed, took place about two weeks later.

1890 H-C Sitting Bull killed.

1890 H-NT

1890 M-WB Sitting Bull was killed; also Spotted Elk.

1891 N-EH Sitting Bull was killed.

1890 Y-BM Pictograph of a sitting buffalo.

1890 Y-BT

1891 Log or frame house with Dakota in dark shirt

Matonape ta

Hand Bear [or Twisted Bear] died.

The Brule winter-counts record the death of Iron Sided Bear in 1893; however, this does not seem to be the same person referred to in the Chandler-Pohrt count.

1892 Log or frame house with eagle

Wanbditanka ta

Big Eagle died.

The death of a man named Eagle is recorded in the Short Bull winter-count for this year. This may be the same death recorded here.

1892 B-S Lakota man in fringed shirt with eagle name sign.

1893 Log or frame house with dark horse and a cow or other animal

Akicita wan uta yapi?

Police go to Owns the Boat's.

William Fielder, a white man, was killed by agency police while resisting arrest. The police were later charged with killing Fielder. He was the son of a white trader and had been raised among the Lakotas. He serve as an interpreter for the US . Army and for the Cheyenne River agency.

1892 B-BW Wounded white man with boat name sign.

1892 H-IH Has a Boat was killed.

1892 M-WB Owns the Boat (William Fielder) was killed (by agency police while he was resisting arrest).

1892 N-E Had a Boat was killed.

1893 N-EH Owns the Boat was killed.

1892 YM-R Allen Fielder's dad, William, was killed. They called him "Has a Boat."

1894 Log or frame house with Dakota holding unidentifiable object

Isanyati hoks·ina wan kataiyeiciya

Santee boy shot himself?

This and the following five events are not recorded in the other winter-counts. During the reservation period, counts began to be individual, rather than band, endeavors. During this period there is little correspondence between the various winter-counts.

1895 Log or frame house with red eagle

Wanbdiduta ta

Red Eagle died.

1896 Log or frame house with white man holding rifle

Mazakan narma kdi

Old Iron hid out at home?

1897 Log or frame house with Dakota with heart name sign

Canteya ta

Heart died.

1898 Log or frame house with Dakota with dog name sign

S·unkahanska ta

Long Dog died.

1899 Log or frame house with Dakota with feathers and round red object name sign

Iyans·ana ta

Red Stone died.

1900 Log or frame house with Dakota with "voice" name sign

Ia taninwin? ta.

Visible Voice? died

This records the death of Visible Voice. This may be the same person as Good Voice Elk, whose death is recorded in the Cranbrook winter-count for this year.

1900 H-C Good Voice Elk died

1901 Log or frame house with Dakota with red forked object name sign

Icabs·inte maza ta

Iron Whip died.

1902 Log or frame house with two Dakotas with wound signs

Sihawoheyun wan tawiciu kte

Bundle Foot's wife was killed; or, Bundle Foot and his wife were killed.

1903 Log or frame house with white man with black arms and chest

Wamanusicas·a wan ktepi

Visiting? white man was killed.

This year-name and pictograph may refer to an incident in which some Oglalas ran into trouble while hunting deer in Wyoming . The Oglalas were pursued by a sheriff's posse from Newcastle , Wyoming . A skirmish ensued and four Indians and one of the posse were killed.

1904 B-BM A band of Oglalas went hunting in Wyoming . They got into trouble with the state officers. Several of the Indians and some of the state police were killed.

1903 O-G Deer hunters were killed.

1894 O-IC The Oglalas killed a policeman.

1903 O-K The antelope hunters were killed.

1903 O-NE Some deer hunters were killed.

1903 O-RH Black Kettle went hunting and got killed.

1903 O-SM Some antelope hunters were killed.

1904 Log or frame house with Dakota with warbonnet

Wapahasapa ta

Black Warbonnet died.

This records the death of a person named Black Warbonnet. This may refer to the suicide of Gary Warbonnet's son in 1905, but more likely records a separate and unrelated event.

1904 H-C Black Shield died.

1905 O-FH Gray Hat's son suicide.

1893 O-IC Black Warbonnet was run over by a wagon.

1905 O-G Gray Warbonnet's son committed suicide.

1905 O-K Gray Warbonnet shot and killed his own son.

1905 O-NE A child of Gray Warbonnet committed suicide.

1905 Log or frame house with white man or mixed-blood with striped buffalo name sign


Yellow Moccasin fathered; or, Yellow Moccasin met [somebody].

The meaning of the pictograph and year-name are unclear. It could be translated "Yellow Moccasins was the agent."

1906 Log or frame house with Dakota with red hawk name sign

Cetanwakinwa? ta

Thunder Hawk died.

This records the death of Thunder Hawk, a well-known peace chief (Praus 1962:27).

1909 B-BW Pictograph for death of man with bird name sign.

1906 H-C Thunder Hawk died.

1907 N-E Thunder Hawk died.

1907 Log or frame house with rifle pointing at large eagle

Wanbdiwakan kataiyeiciya

Holy Eagle shot himself to death?

Both the pictograph and the year-name suggest the suicide of a person named eagle.

1908 B-BM This year a noted Indian policeman named Sitting Eagle shot and killed himself.

1909 N-E Eagle Man died.

1908 Log or frame house with shield name sign

Sisseton mazaska icupi

Sissetons were issued money.

This undoubtedly refers to one of the government payments made at various times and to various tribes in a half-hearted attempt to honor treaty obligations.

1909 Log or frame house with Dakota with strike or speech marks

Iyakcunipi ta

Gives Up died.

1910 Log or frame house with Dakota with dark shirt and red circular object name sign

Tonkasitominiduta ta

Big Red All Over died.

This probably does not refer to Red Cloud's death, because neither the pictograph nor the text provides a recognizable form of his name. No similar events were found in the other winter-counts.

1909 B-S Pictograph for death of Red Cloud. (also recorded in Short Man, No Ears, Blue Thunder Blue Thunder variants and No Two Horns counts; Kindle records it for 1910)

1911 Log or frame house with Dakota in scalp shirt and warbonnet with horse name sign

[no text given]

The year and the pictograph are not accurate for American Horse's death. More likely, this records the death of Spotted Horse or some other prominent northern Lakota person.

1908 B-S Pictograph for death of American Horse.

1911 H-IH Spotted Horse died.

1908 O-G American Horse [died].

1908 O-K American Horse died.

1908 O-NE American Horse died during the winter.

1908 O-SM American Horse died during the winter.

1912 Faint green square

[no text given]

1913-19 [no text given]

Like many other Lakota winter-counts, the keeper has resorted to a simple tally for the closing years of the record. For those who had known the free life of the pre-reservation period, the reservation years were simply "the time when nothing happened."


B-BM Brule: Big Missouri (Cohen 1939)

B-BW Brule: Brown Wolf (Sundstrom ms. 1992)

B-G Brule: Battiste Good [Brown Hat] (Mallery 1893)

B-H Brule: Hardin (Finster 1968)

B-HH Brule: High Hawk (Curtis 1908)

B-S Brule: Short Bull (Sundstrom ms. 1992)

B-SB Brule: Swift Bear (Cohen 1942)

H-C Hunkpapa: Cranbrook (Praus 1962)

H-IH Hunkpapa: Iron Hawk (J. Sundstrom and Halfred ms. 1988)

H-NT Hunkpapa: No Two Horns (Howard 1979)

H-V Hunkpapa: Vestal's Hunkpapa (Vestal 1934)

M-B Minneconjou: Bush (Mallery 1886)

M-LD Minneconjou: Bettlelyoun's Lone Dog (unpublished ms.)

M-ML Minneconjou: Mallery's Lone Dog (Mallery 1886, 1893)

M-MS Minneconjou: Mato Sapa (Mallery 1886)

M-S Minneconjou: Swan (Mallery 1886, 1893)

M-TE Minneconjou?: Thin Elk (Sundstrom ms. 1992)

M-WB Minneconjou: Vestal's White Bull (Vestal 1934b)

MB-IS Minneconjou-Brule: Iron Shell (Hassrick 1964)

N-E Unknown northern band: Eaton (J. Sundstrom and Halfred ms. 1990)

N-EH Unknown northern band: Elk Head (Sundstrom ms. 1996)

O-AH Oglala: American Horse (Mallery 1886)

O-CS Oglala: Cloud Shield (Mallery 1886)

O-FH Oglala: Flying Hawk (McCreight 1947)

O-G Oglala: Garnier (Grange 1963)

O-IC Oglala: Iron Crow (Walker 1982)

O-K Oglala: Kindle (Beckwith 1930)--used Lakota text as both translation and interpretation have errors

O-M Oglala: Makula (unpublished ms.)

O-NE Oglala: No Ears ( Walker 1982)

O-RH Oglala: Red Horse Owner (Karol 1969)

O-SM Oglala: Short Man (Walker 1982)

O-WC Oglala: White Cow Killer (Mallery 1886)

O-WB Oglala: Wounded Bear (Feraca ms. 1971)

O-WS Oglala: Whiteman Stands in Sight (Powers 1963)

S-F Saone (Itazipco and Oohenonpa): Flame (Mallery 1886, 1893)

Y-B Yanktonai: John K. Bear (Howard 1976)

Y-BM Yanktonai: British Museum (Howard 1979)

Y-BT Yanktonai: Blue Thunder (Howard 1879)

YM-R Yanktonai and Minneconjou: Roan Bear's Wind (Higginbotham 1891)


Beckwith, Martha Warren, 1930, Mythology of the Oglala Dakota, Journal of American Folklore 43:339-442.

Catlin, George, 1844, Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indian , Fourth edition, London .

Clark, William P., 1881, The Indian Sign Language , L.R. Hammersly, Philadelphia .

Cohen, Lucy Cramer, 1939, Big Missouri 's Winter Count--a Sioux Calendar, 1796- 1926, Indians at Work 6(6):16-20.

1942, Swift Bear's Winter Count, Indians at Work 9(5):18-21, 9(6):30-31, 9(7):29-30.

Curtis, Edward S., 1908, The North American Indian , Vol. 3, pp. 121-123. Cambridge University .

Deloria, Ella Carla, 1937, An Old Oglala Year Count from 1759-1906, Old Dakota Legends , Ms 30X8a.21(I-6b), Boas Collection, American Philosophical Society Library, Philadelphia.

Densmore , Frances , 1918, Teton Sioux Music , Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletins, 61.

Finster, David, 1968, The Hardin Winter Count, Museum News 29(3-4), W. H. Over Museum, University of South Dakota , Vermillion, S.D.

Grange, Roger T., 1963, The Garnier Oglala winter count, Plains Anthropologist 8(20):74-79.

Hassrick, Royal B., 1964, The Sioux: Life and Customs of a Warrior Society , University of Oklahoma , Norman .

Higginbotham, N. A., 1981, The Wind-Roan Bear Winter Count, Plains Anthropologist 26:1-42.

Howard, James H., 1955, Two Dakota winter count texts, Plains Anthropologist , 5: 13-30.

----- 1960, Dakota Winter Counts as a Source of Plains History , Smithsonian Institution Anthropological Papers, 61, Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletins, 173:335-416.

----- 1960c,Two Teton Dakota Winter Count Texts, North Dakota History 27(2):64-79.

----- 1968, The Warrior Who Killed Custer: The Personal Narrative of Chief Joseph White Bull , translated and edited by James H. Howard, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

----- 1976, Yanktonai Ethnohistory and the John K. Bear Winter Count , Plains Anthropologist Memoirs, 11.

----- 1979, The British Museum Winter Count , British Museum Occasional Papers, 4.

Hyde, George E., 1937, Red Cloud's Folk: A History of the Oglala Sioux Indians , University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

1961, Spotted Tail's Folk: A History of the Brule Sioux , University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

Ironhawk, F. F., 1936, Omaka Iyohi On Token Woyakapi, Iapi Oaye [Word Carrier] 65(7). Santee , Nebraska .

Karol, Joseph S., editor, 1969, Red Horse Owner's Winter Count, The Oglala Sioux 1786- 1968 , Booster Publishing, Martin, S.D.

Mallery, Garrick, 1877, A Calendar of the Dakota Nation , U.S. Geological and Geographical Survey Bulletins, 3(1).

----- 1886, Pictographs of the North American Indians , Bureau of American Ethnology Annual Reports, 4:13-256.

----- 1893, Picture Writing of the American Indian , Bureau of American Ethnology Annual Reports, 10: 3-807.

McCoy Ronald T., 1983, Winter Count: The Teton Chronicles to 1799 , Ph.D. Dissertation, Northern Arizona University .

McCreight, Major Israel, 1947, Firewater and Forked Tongues: A Sioux Chief Interprets U.S. History , Trail's End, Pasadena , Calif.

Paulson, T. Emogene, and Lloyd R. Moses, 1988, Who's Who Among the Sioux , Institute of Indian Studies, University of South Dakota, Vermillion.

Penney, David W., 1992, Art of the American Indian Frontier: The Chandler-Pohrt Collection , University of Washington Press, Seattle .

Powers, William, 1963, A Winter Count of the Oglala, American Indian Tradition , no. 52:27-37.

Praus, Alexis, 1962, The Sioux, 1798-1922, A Dakota Winter Count , Cranbrook Institute of Science Bulletins, 44.

Sundstrom, Jessie Y., and Rebecca Halfred, 1988, Translation of the Iron Hawk Winter Count, unpublished manuscript.

----- 1990, Translation of the Eaton Winter Count, unpublished manuscript.

Sundstrom, Linea, 1992, Interpretation of Pictographic Brown Wolf Winter Count, unpublished manuscript.

----- 1992, Interpretation of Short Bull Pictographic Winter Count, unpublished manuscript.

----- 1992, Interpretation of Thin Elk Pictographic Winter Count, unpublished manuscript.

----- 1996, Translation of Elk Head Winter Count, unpublished manuscript.

Vestal, Stanley, 1934a, Warpath, The True Story of the Fighting Sioux Told in a Biography of Chief White Bull , Houghton Mifflin, Boston and New York.

Wind (Tate), 1900, Waniyetu Yawapi Wan, Iapi Oaye [Word Carrier] 24(2), Santee , Nebraska .