The Teachers' Guide
Lakota winter counts — pictographic
calendars of a community's history
— provide a unique look into the
history of the Lakota Sioux people
during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Unlike historical accounts recorded
by European settlers and explorers,
winter counts represent a rich
Lakota tradition of oral history
and storytelling. Community historians,
known as winter count keepers,
maintained and used these pictographic
records as mnemonic devices to
remember the sequence of events
that marked each year. By referring
to the winter count, members of
a Lakota community could mark
events in their own lives. The
Smithsonian's collection of winter
counts documents the history of
several Lakota communities over
a 200-year period.
Primary sources expose students to multiple perspectives on events and issues of the past and present. Incorporating winter counts into the classroom can allow students to develop visual literacy skills, greater analytical abilities, and a deeper understanding about the Lakota people and their culture. By dealing directly with archival records, students engage in asking questions, thinking critically, and developing reasoned explanations and interpretations of events, issues, and peoples of the past and the present. Many teachers in the U.S. and Canada are already using winter counts as focal points for lesson plans in math, history and social studies.
This Teachers' Guide was created to help you incorporate Lakota winter counts into your curriculum. It includes relevant background information, visual material, topic suggestions, sample lesson plans and resource lists, along with instructions on navigating the Lakota winter count online exhibit. Before using this material, please review the guidelines for teaching culturally sensitive material, developed by the Department of Anthropology of the National Museum of Natural History. The Teachers' Guide includes a glossary with definitions for anthropological terms and Lakota words. The Audio Glossary in the online exhibit provides pronunciation for Lakota terms.
This Teachers' Guide was developed,
written and designed by Anh-Thu
Cunnion while completing her
M.A.T. in Museum Education at
The George Washington University.
Under the supervision of Candace
Greene, Ms. Cunnion worked with
a dedicated group of ethnologists
and educators in order to create
a comprehensive guide for teachers
that can enhance their curriculum
and inspire their students for
years to come.
The following people were instrumental
in the development of this teachers'
guide and deserve special thanks
for their advice and support:
Candace Greene, Christina
Burke, and Martin Earring for
supplying historical and cultural
Robert Leopold and the Lakota
Winter Count online exhibit
team at INVIONI for their work
with the content crafting, design
and technological components
of the online exhibit and the
Ann Kaupp, Lynn Alstat and
Genevieve Simermeyer for their
help in compiling the Bibliography
and Cultural Considerations
Ruth O. Selig, Susan Sprenke,
and Joshua Winterhalt for providing
their educational expertise
in developing the In the Classroom
and Lesson Plans sections.
The Smithsonian Women's Committee
provided the funds that made
both the Lakota Winter Count
online exhibit and this Teachers'
Last updated March 3, 2005.