The Project

Singer Horse Capture at a demonstration against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Dartmouth College in October 2016  Courtesy of Kohar Avakian

Singer Horse Capture at a demonstration against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Dartmouth College in October 2016
Courtesy of Kohar Avakian

The Project Creator: Singer Horse Capture

I studied anthropology and Native American studies at Dartmouth College, graduating in 2017, and throughout my four years was involved with the Native American community on campus and the Hood Museum of Art. I participated in two off-campus programs for each of my degrees, an anthropology program in Auckland, New Zealand, and the inaugural Native American studies off-campus program in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I am a part of the A’aninin tribe (commonly known as Gros Ventre), and grew up in Minnesota. Throughout my childhood, my parents worked in art museums and signed me up for art summer camps, instilling in me the value of art and the importance of making it accessible and available.

The Research

This project began my sophomore year when I became a Native American Intern at the Hood Museum of Art through an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant. For my Virtual Space for Dialogue exhibition, I wanted to focus on an object that has a lot of potential for use in the classroom—not only at Dartmouth, but for anyone interested in learning about Native history from the perspective of a Native community. After consulting with a professor in the Native American studies program, I chose the Medicine Bear winter count, a relatively recent acquisition by the museum. In the object file, I found a document of glyph interpretations written by a non-Native. While wary of  these interpretations, whose sources were not documented, I based my research on this document for nearly all of the three terms of my internship. However, during the final term, I established contact with Dakota Goodhouse of Standing Rock. Goodhouse provided his own interpretations of the Medicine Bear winter count, based on his knowledge, deep familiarity with other winter counts, and his own tribe’s history. These are the interpretations you see on this site.

The Site

I created this website first and foremost for the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna (Yanktonai) people, who made this winter count, with the purpose of giving them a voice, making their existence known, and their stories accessible. I also hope this site will be used by other people who are interested in learning more about Plains Indian culture and Native American history through a particular community’s experiences.

As you explore the site and examine each glyph on the “Explore the Winter Count” page, think about what these glyphs represent and the stories that each one tells. This winter count provides a window into 95 years of a community’s history as they underwent decades of tumultuous and traumatic experiences including losing their land to white settlers, denial of their treaty rights by the government, starvation as a result of this neglect and the dismantling of their resources and homeland, and government policies based on a “kill the Indian, save the Man” ideology.

However, Native peoples are resilient, and like all tribal communities, the Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna are continuing to fight for their rights and livelihood, most recently for their treaty rights, water safety, and cultural sites threatened by the Dakota Access Pipeline.