Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Draw Your Own Winter Count Craft

Draw Your Own Winter Count Craft

Every family has stories they never want to forget. These days, we can record them in letters, photo albums, and videos and share them across the Internet with friends and relatives. Had we belonged to a Plains Indian tribe such as the Blackfeet, Crow, or Sioux long ago, however, we would have had no such high-tech aids.

"Many Plains Indians didn't have a written language at all," says educator Kip Schnackenberg. Instead, they kept oral histories by telling stories over and over to their children and grandchildren. To ensure that stories were remembered for generations, the tribe historian kept a "winter count." Each year, he drew the most significant event (a buffalo hunt, a pony raid, a solar eclipse), usually with one simple symbol, on an animal hide. Typically, the first story was placed at the center of the hide; subsequent symbols were often added in a spiral.

Times have changed, but that shouldn't deter your kids from creating their own winter count. When they're done, challenge them to retell all those memorable tales — in their next e-mail to Grandma!

by Rani Arbo

What you'll need

  • Thin leather chamois (available at art supply and automotive stores)
  • Scissors
  • Watercolor pencils (available at art stores) or colored pencils


Instead of using leather, cut a large piece from a paper bag. Have your child draw her symbols with colored pencils. When she is done, wet the paper, then gently wring it out. Tear the edges to create an organic shape. Lay flat to dry.

How to make it

To make a "hide," cut a piece of leather chamois about a foot or more in diameter.

Help your child select one important event from each year of her life to depict (younger kids may have an easier time remembering the last few months, weeks, or days). Have her practice sketching one very simple symbol that tells the story for each event.

When she's ready, wet the hide, wring it out, and spread it flat. Using the watercolor pencils, which glide easily over wet materials, she can copy her symbols in a spiral. If an area starts to dry out, spray it with water or wet it with a clean sponge. Lay flat to dry.

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