“Set-t'an Annual Calendar of the Kiowa, depicting the years 1833-1892.”
-BeyondTexasHistory.net

Marking the Year:
Kiowa Counts & Community Histories

Many of our Indigenous ancestors kept calendars to record the history of their people. Our Kiowa ancestors divided their calendar into two seasons: summer and winter. The calendar keeper, usually an artist, drew one image for each season. Each image depicted an important event that had taken place during the year. In the mid-19th century, calendar keepers used animal hides as a canvas but later these calendars were re-drawn on thick manila sheets or in ledgers.

Since the calendar had two images (one for summer and one for winter), the calendar keeper used a special symbol to represent each season. Summer events had a depiction of a Medicine Lodge where summer gatherings and ceremonies took place; winter events had a vertical black line underneath that season’s pictograph.

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Summer 1866 pictograph depicting the Flat Metal or German Silver Sun Dance.
From the calendar keeper Jòhâusàn
-Oklahoma History Center

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Winter 1879 pictograph depicting when a medicine man anticipated a night attack on a Kiowa war party.
From the calendar keeper Jòhâusàn
-Oklahoma History Center

The pictographs represented local events, beliefs, history, and traditions. No universal pictograph language existed; our Comanche ancestors used different types of images than our Kiowa or Lakota ancestors. While most Indigenous communities today no longer keep a winter count, the tradition of sharing stories continues at community gatherings like powwows and family get-togethers.

A Count for 2021

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During our 2021 holiday event, we encouraged visitors to think about the important moments in the lives of their families and communities and add those events to our Kiowa-inspired winter count. The resulting count shows the range of emotions and experiences the past year brought to our lives. Grief, joy, endings, beginnings, and hope all make appearances as images whose full meaning is known only to the artist and their family. One of our historical interpreters carefully listened to all the stories recorded and shared them with us at the end of the holiday event. You can see a sampling of those stories in the image gallery below.

Covid virus drawing

The now familiar image of the COVID-19 virus appears several times on our count, showing its impact on our communities over the past year.

Three handrawn houses with three people crying in one house and a person with a sad face in the thir

This artist shared the sadness they and their friends felt when another friend moved away to a different town.

Drawing of a house pointing at a school surrounded by books

This artist noted the educational transitions of 2021, with some students returning to a school building after a year of homeschooling.

Drawing of a pink flower with spiked petals

A young woman drew this image depicting a flower given to her by a boy. This was clearly a very important flower.

Drawing of a person wearing a mask

Masks dominated the experiences of some of our community members this year, as seen in numerous drawings.

Drawing of a cat with an arrow pointing to a question mark in a box

A family grappled with the loss of their cat, who was still missing at the time of this drawing.

A drawing of the Disney castle and the Mickey Mouse logo in the center

A young visitor happily recounted their long-awaited family trip to Disney World.

Drawing of person in a mask receiving a shot with a Covid virus image

An older visitor shared the memory of their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination.

Drawing of a camper between two trees with a little girl next to the camper

A daughter excitedly shared her family's camping stories as she drew the family's RV that packed 2021 full of outdoor adventures.

What would you add to mark this year?