Sam Kills Two painting the Big Missouri Winter Count,
photograph: John Anderson, 1926
Many Native American records exist of this meteor storm as entries in Winter Counts, a form of pictorial calendrical record common among tribes of the Great Plains. Many different tribes created these records, among them Lakota, Blackfoot, Mandan, and Kiowa. Winter counts were often originally painted on animal hides but with the availability of the white man’s materials many later examples were drawn on cloth and even paper. The pictographic symbols used in most winter counts represented the mnemonic imagery that the count keeper used to prompt memories of the memorable event for that year.
The oldest known Lakota winter count. AD 1805 – 88.
Lakota Winter Counts Of known Winter Counts the largest number were painted by members of various bands of Lakotas. One name for Lakota pictographic calendars is waniyetu wowapi , literally, “winters they count,” meaning “counted winters” or “winter count.” Following this second designation, they are known in English as “winter counts.” Winter counts were drawn and cared for by Keepers and depict the most significant yearly experience of a tiyošpaye (extended kinship group).” There are more than 150 currently known winter counts. In Dakota the word for winter, waniyetu , is also the word employed for the English “year”.
Bull Plume (North Piegan) winter count, 1764 – 1910 ,
English translations were added by an Anglican missionary named W. R. Haynes.
Kiowa Winter Counts Sett’an Winter Count, 1833 – 1892. Sett’an (Little Chief) The symbol for 1833-1834 from Sett’an Winter count shows Sett’an as a child, standing atop a black bar which denotes the year, with stars above his head.
Dohassan’s (Little Bluff’s) winter count, the earliest known Kiowa calendar.
Dohassan (Little Bluff) portrait by George Catlin, 1834.
Canyon de Chelly Star Ceiling, Navajo With so many examples of the 1833 Leonid Meteor Storm found in Ledger Book Art, it seems likely that examples in rock art should have been created too. Perhaps some of the known Navajo star ceilings represent this.