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8-B Black Hawk, “Sans Arc Lakota” Ledger Book, 1880—1881
Vera Tomilko


THEME: “Winter Counts used by the Lakota”

SKILLS COVERED: Using the primary sources


  1. Make students interested in American Indian history.
  2. Getting a thorough look and a better understanding on the diversity of American society.

The students will be better able to:

  1. identify, seek out, evaluate and investigate the events of the past.
  2. Obtain the historical data about the Lakota, the American Indian tribe.

MATERIALS/VISUAL AIDS: Screen and Multimedia projector or a Smartboard (the overhead projection of an image of winter counts), Computer Lab with at least 8 computers equipped with high-speed Internet access.

Pre-task: it is highly recommended to read the article about Black Hawk “Sans Arc Lakota” Ledger Book in Picturing America Teachers Resource Book.

1. Discuss the concept of calendars. What are the calendars for? How do we use them? What different kinds of calendars are there? (i.e. Lunar. Jewish, astrological, weekly, daily)
2. Instruct the students to write down the most memorable event that occurred the day before.
3. Provide the background information on the Lakota by Listening to the historical overview, about who the Lakota were. Follow the link http://wintercounts.si.edu/flashindex.html
Explain how the winter counts were used by the Lakota to remember their community’s history
- each pictograph represents a memorable event that occurred each year of the community’s history
- the pictographs are arranged in chronological order
- one person, the keeper, was responsible for meeting with important members of the community to discuss which event would represent the preceding year.

Research Project:

For this lesson the students will become “investigational historians” whose task is to learn as much as they can about the Lakota’s people history during the 19th century.
The students are divided into 8 groups and are assigned to use one of the pictographic winter counts as their primary resource. Then they will report back to the class as a whole with their findings and correlate the events mentioned in the winter counts with events they found out in the beginning of the class. Students have 35 minutes to do the research project and discuss it with their mates.

Home work assignment:
Have students interview an older relative or a neighbor about an important past event (the World War 2, the Perestroyka, etc). The students should submit the list of questions used for the interview and tell the class what the interview was about.