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Black Pinto Horse Fine Arts
Winter Counts
"Monte Yellow Bird visited our classrooms 7 - 12, What an experience,...Educational, definitely!! is a word that comes to mind. It is a experience that everyone should share, you will walk away with a better understanding for Art and life"    ~ Pelican Rapids MN. Art Dept.
Age Appropriate
Project Time

Grades 2-8

4- 5 hours

What are Winter Counts?

A “winter count” was a visual depiction of symbols, images and markings on animal hides that documented important events for Native American tribes.  Historically, Paleolithic and some neolithic images, cave drawings and carvings were used to tell stories about tribal people before the advent of drawing on Hides. Winter counts consisted of pictographic images which were painted on buffalo hides that recorded historical information about the tribes evolution and important events that the people should remember to pass onto the future.

Image of Lone Dog Winter Count. Pictographs painted in spiral pattern on animal hide.
Lone Dog Winter Count, 1800-1870, 42-1/2" x 31" (108 x 79.5 cm)

Winter Counts in a nut shell

The main objective is to assist students to understand one method of preserving history ( oral traditions; history passed down through the telling of stories) as they experience and share their own personal history’s through artistic expression. 

Students will be able to complete a small winter count, creating an ensemble of pictorial images that represent key points in their lives, resembling the historical winter counts made by the First Nation people to tell their tribes story, using hides which consist of tag board, coffee, tea, pencils, and markers/colors.  They will explain where they come from as well as where they are presently, and project where they want to head.

What are your learning objectives for students and/or community members in the residency?  (What do you want them to know and be able to do at the end of the residency?)

* Students will be able to draw one symbol or image that represents one great accomplishment or event for each year of their life
* Students will
be able to define the following terms: oral tradition, petroglyph and pictograph
* Students will be able create a simulated buffalo hide on white tag board using tea bags and coffee
* Students will be able to use colors, images and symbols to represent their heritage

How will you assess whether the students/community members learned what you wanted them to know and be able to do?

They will prepare their canvas, a buffalo hide, using tag board, tea bags and coffee.  Their winter count will consist of the amount of pictographic images equal to their years of life represented on their simulated hide in a spiral fashion.  They will utilize their negative space by filling it with a collage of color, images and design to represent their heritage.  Each student will share with their peers their favorite story(event) as well as their ancestry.

To receive a packet of information or schedule your fine art program with Monte and Emily Yellow Bird, please email Emily @





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