Welcome to the Lakota Winter Counts. an online exhibit
Go to What Are Winter Counts page Links to exhibit of Lakota winter counts contained in the Smithsonian collection Who are the Lakota? Links to information about the social structures of the Lakota people, circa mid-19th century. Links to information about the environment of the plains that the Lakota inhabited druing the times these counts were kept. Links to a page contining three subpages containing additional resouces. A downloadable teachers' guide, a bibliography and a page containing additional information sources including links to other online resources.
 
Map displaying the territory of the classical Sioux during the mid-19th century. Map shows the three part dialect division of Lakota, Lakota and Dakota. Lakota area includes Western Nebraska, South Dakota and south-western Noth Dakota. Nakota area includes north-western Iowa and Minnesota, Eastern South and North Dakota. Dakota area includes significant portion of Minnesota, northern Iowa and eastern Wisconsin.

The Lakota are a tribe who live on the northern plains of North America. They are closely related by culture, language, and history to other tribes who together are often referred to as 'Sioux'.

This includes the Dakota who live in Minnesota and eastern North and South Dakota. The Lakota are known as the Teton or Western Sioux. This both to their location (west of the Dakota on the plains) and to the dialect of Sioux they speak.

   
 
Map showing general probable area of Lakota origin in the riverine regions of northern Minnesota and north-eastern Wisconsin.

Before about 1640 the Lakota probably lived closer to their Dakota relatives, living a more sedentary, riverine lifestyle, relying on agricultural products, such as wild rice, in addition to hunted game such as fish and deer.

     
 
Image indicatind westward direction of migration.

The Lakota began to move west for three reasons. First, conflict with neighboring tribes. Second, to follow the large herds of buffalo, which roamed the plains. Thirdly, to avoid the encroaching whites who were moving west.

     
 
Datail from drawing of Lakota on horseback shooting rifles at buffalo.

The introduction of horses and guns had great impact on the Lakota, making hunting buffalo more efficient.

     
 
Detail of mounted officers surveying Lakota encampment.

With more and more whites moving onto the plains, the Lakota were forced to alter their way of life. The army sent troops to protect white settlers, and conflicts over land were a way of life from the 1850s to the 1880s.

     
 
Map displaying territory of the Great Sioux Revervation.

During this period, the Lakota and other tribes signed treaties with the U.S. government ceding land in return for such rationed goods as food, cloth, and tools. In 1868 negotiations between tribes and government officials, led to the creation of the Great Sioux Reservation which basically included all the land of South Dakota west of the Missouri River.

     
 
Map displaying the current reservations.

In 1877 the reservation diminished as the result of the taking of the Black Hills Cession. Over the next several decades the Sioux lost more land to the United States breaking up the reservation into several smaller reservations, Pine Ridge, Rosebud, Lower Brule, Crow Creek, Cheyenne River and Standing Rock. Today, about 1/2 the Lakota live on or near these reservations.