The Lakota Sioux kept track of their past through an annual pictorial “Winter Count.” For more than 11 centuries, tribal historians drew the single most important event of the year on hide, cloth or paper. Anthropologist Russell Thornton initiated the idea for this collection because the counts are the historical memory of the Lakota people, yet they were buried in Smithsonian archives.
The scholarly analysis is very readable, and Chapter 4, “Winter by Winter,” includes 200 years of sequential counts. The drawings reveal whole constellations of Lakota experience such as 1858-59, Chief One Horn had a give away, and 1901-1902, The winter of small pox. The title winter count, “The year the stars fell,” features eight historians’ depictions of the spectacular Leonid meteor shower of 1833-34. Don’t miss the elegant simplicity of these artist/historian winter counts. —Cynthia Green