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Winter Count

Ta Sunka Duza (Swift Dog, 1845-1918)
Hunkpapa Lakota
Northern Plains

ca. 1900

muslin, paint
35 ¼" × 47 ¾"

Inventory # P4350

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A small stain removed and repaired left side, center facing.

This superb pictographic “winter count” is one of a small number known in museum collections by the Hunkpapa Lakota warrior Swift Dog. In addition to his paintings on muslin, Swift Dog was a skilled creator of ledger drawings, painted shields and model tipi covers.

PROVENANCE

Acquired directly from the artist by Mr P Robinson who owned a general store near Williston, ND, in the early 1900's 
By descent in the family

RELATED EXAMPLES

Historical Society of North Dakota, Bismarck, Cat. Nos. 674 and 791 – See: McCoy, Ron. American Indian Art Magazine, Summer 1994, pg. 71, pl. 4, pg. 73, pl. 6, and pg. 74, pl. 7 (catalogued together as 791)

And also Maurer, Evan, M. Visions of the People: A Pictorial History of Plains Indian Life. Minneapolis: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1992, pg. 275, pl. 286 (Cat. No. 791)

Cranbrook Institute of Science, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Cat. No 4145 – See: See: McCoy, Ron. American Indian Art Magazine, Summer 1994, pg. 71, pl. 3

Metropolitan Museum of Art - The Charles and Valerie Diker collection – See: Ibid, pg. 68, pl. 1 and pg. 69, pl. 2 for two ledger drawings by Swift Dog

Ibid, pg. 72, pl. 5 for a modal tipi cover (private collection)

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO. (Ex. Terasaki Collection), Cat. No. 2005.30 – See: https://art.nelson-atkins.org/objects/35059/winter-count?ctx=1e9b3c6d-7996-4043-8560-3261a7c8c637&idx=1507

The Hunkpapa artist Ta-sunka-duza or Swift Dog was the son of a Sioux Chief, and a member of one of Sitting Bull’s warrior societies. The artist was a key informant to the ethnologist Frances Densmore who worked for the Smithsonian Institution in the early 20th century. Through her writings we know much about Swift Dog’s life and work which includes at least 5 elaborate Winter Count muslins, with one strikingly similar example found in the collection of the State Historical Society of North Dakota (Cat. 791)

The Lakota and some other Plains tribes tracked the passage of time and their community history with winter counts (waniyetu wowapi). The name refers to the way the Sioux conceived of the year, which was counted from the first snow of one winter to the first snow of the next. Pictographic winter counts used a single image painted on hide, and later, muslin, to remind the viewer of major events and their importance. Winter counts had “keepers” who chose significant events after consulting with elders. These pictographic records were kept until the early part of the 20th century, and serve as valuable documents of Plains Indian history