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ERIC Number: EJ787780
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 30
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0161-6463
Wife, Mother, Provider, Defender, God: Women in Lakota Winter Counts
Risch, Barbara
American Indian Culture and Research Journal, v27 n3 p1-30 2003
In American history and myth, Plains Indian society tends to be portrayed by the primary (and often solitary) figure of the male warrior. Images of the lives of Indian women in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as earlier, come largely from western texts: the writings of travelers, missionaries, military officers, ethnographers and historians. For many reasons, however, these characterizations are likely to be unrevealing. A characterization of women in "texts" produced by Plains Indians themselves might present a different picture. In the nineteenth century and earlier, Plains Indian men kept pictographic biographies, as well as yearly records known as winter counts; oral narratives are thought to have complemented these pictographic documents. Since a large part of any culture's literature is its history, historical narratives are important texts for study. Scholars consider the western visual records of George Catlin and Edward Curtis to be important historical evidence for characterizing Indian life. Although narrative events depicted in the visual record of Lakota winter counts might not seem historically relevant to the western mind, they do graphically portray a narrative framework for events that people themselves considered worth remembering. Winter counts of the eighteenth and nineteenth century provide the opportunity to shape a historical account from the people's own point of view, in terms of the implied narratives they developed to remember about themselves, the kinds of actions and events considered meaningful enough to record. This essay describes the portrayal of women in Teton winter counts through the analysis of five pictographic texts, focusing on some of the oldest surviving documents, which were composed on paper or muslin and accompanied by verbal transcriptions. Winter counts from five different Lakota traditions are examined: Brule (Battiste Good), Oglala (American Horse and Cloud Shield), Mnikowoju (Little Swan), and Sans Arc (Flame/Blaze). (Contains 17 figures and 97 notes.)
American Indian Studies Center at UCLA. 3220 Campbell Hall, Box 951548, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1548. Tel: 310-825-7315; Fax: 310-206-7060; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A