In the Lakota-Sioux language the words "Waniyetu Wowapi" translate to "Winter Count." Winter Count images marked a notable occurrence amongst the Sioux people as a timeline of significant year in events.
These collections of Winter Count catalogues (traditionally etched, painted, and/or drawn on deer, elk, antelope or buffalo hides later muslin fabric) are a pictorial accounting of the past years happenings. Ultimately serving as a traditional "history book." With - Tradition As Prevention - as a core value of the Tipi Project, it is this traditional way of preserving information for generations to come that is being revised and reclaimed, as we continue to battle the HIV/AIDS epidemic in native communities.
Much of the artwork I create allows me to reconnect with the action steps my ancestors used in making the ancient etching and carving of winter counts. The hand drawn technique of creating a pattern for the image, painting, cutting of patterns, stretching of leather hide, erection of tipi's, and storytelling while working return me to a world of the grandmothers and grandfathers. I use a sense of smell to invoke the ancestral connection especially when painting on traditional brain tanned hides or smoked hides to create a primitive ambiance. At the same time creating these pictorial images of modern day events with the soundscapes of cars, planes, boats, skyscrapers, and people of the urban reality in the background, allows participants to revive a tradition their ancestors might have done. I use colors from the regional location that are earth based. Colors that can organically be made using traditional dying techniques like green for grass, earth iron mud for brown, berries for reds, and ash for black. As a second generation tipi maker there's a connection that transcends time and space. It's a connection to my father who taught me, and a connection to my elder's who've kept the traditions of storytelling.
Winter Counts pictured below were painted by various American Indian Community House members. The Winter Counts pictured here (left to Right) are: "Last Winter," 2001 - Marty Prairie, and a reproduction of "Measles, a historical Winter Count by Cloud Shield, 1882 - 1883. The image shows a body covered with many speckles, indicating the measles rashes on tribal members bodies.
Indigenous peoples have survived many epidemics in the past. HIV/AIDS will be another epidemic they will survive as well. Members of the American Indian Community House who are from various indigenous backgrounds carried large reproductions of historical Epidemic Winter Counts onto the stage of the famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem, NYC, during the opening of Manhattan's 2015 World AIDS Day event . Indigenous community members kicked of the event blessing the stage with their dancing, singing, and prayers.
Pictured here (left to right top to bottom):
1. "Cholera" - 1849-1850, American Horse
2. "Whooping Cough" - 1813-1814, Flame
3. "Marty Prairie Last Winter" 2001
4. "Smallpox" - 1780-1781, American Horse
5. "Measles" - 1882-1883, Measles Cloud Shield
Surviving the Epidemics and HIV/AIDS in Urban Indian Communities
The Depths of the urban Indian health crisis, challenges in accessing culturally competent healthcare services, and decades of neglect have placed urban Indians at greater risk of health disparities. These including new HIV/AIDS infections and late diagnosis. From east coast to west coast, you'll find American Indians and Alaska Natives from every nation scattered across the country with 78% living off reservations.
The Indian Relocation Act of 1956 journeyed many Native Americans from reservations to major cities and a number of metropolitan areas. Urban American Indians have high levels of impoverishment that rival some of the nation's poorest reservations. Although the United States continues to work to address racial and ethnic health disparities in health care, urban American Indians and Alaska Natives have been mostly missed in the efforts. Special attention must be paid to make sure they are included in future initiatives.
Timeline of Winter Counts and Names:
2018 - Tipi Project Winter
2017 - Take The Pill Winter
2016 - United States Conference on AIDS Winter
2015 - Apollo Winter
2014 - Native Prevalence Wasn’t High Enough to Justify Funding Winter
2013 - Blue Pill Winter
2011 - Apache Red Balloon Release Winter
2010 - Hope Winter
2009 - Not One More Winter
2007 - National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Winter
2006 - Native Peoples of North America HIV/AIDS Conference Winter
2004 - Turtle Island United Front Winter
2001 - Marty Prairie Last Winter
1998 - Year of the Hasapa’s death song Winter
1997 - Winter of First Victory, death rate dropped
1996 - First Light Winter
1995 - Haudenosaunee joined the fight Winter
1994 - The people declared war on this sickness Winter
1993 - Suicide Winter
1992 - Storyteller’s Winter
1991/1992 - Education Winter
1991 - Oneida Nation of Wisconsin Conference
1990 - Red Cross Winter
1988 - Arapaho, Cheyenne, Choctaw, and Piout Nations Join The Fight Winter
1987 - Jodi Harry’s Last Winter
1986 - Winter of Shame
1985 - World Council on AIDS Winter
1982 - AIDS Name Winter - Šikšil T’á
1978 - First Symptoms Winter or Spirit Medicine Came Back Winter
TIPI PROJECT WINTER - A new initiative at data collection through the production of Tipi’s is started. This project provides a culturally competent approach for data collection and combats stigma by opening the dialogue around the history of events that affected the community around HIV/AIDS. Native language revitalization is a major part of this process.
WINTER OF FIRST VICTORY - New HIV Drugs are Working! - CDC reports annual AIDS death dropped in the U.S. - “It was a lot easier to prepare for death, now I have to think about living” A PLWA
EDUCATION WINTER - Richard Bourdeaux was the first tribal member to be elected superintendent of the Todd county schools. Lionel Bourdeaux was named to the White House Task Force on Indian Education. The first Rosebud Sioux Tribe reservation-wide workshop on AIDS was held. (Artwork by: Dr. Thomas Haukass RedOwl of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Carnegie Winter Count)
RED CROSS WINTER - Native American Language Act is passed. Look, listen, avoid!, 1980s-1990s - Three Native men dressed in traditional to contemporary attire stand around a tombstone while a line of people walk toward a buffalo skull. The skull symbolizes the 19th century demise of the buffalo—an emblem of Great Plains Native culture—and also references the “Vanishing Indian” theory, a widely held notion among Americans that Native peoples, like the buffalo, also were dying out. Indeed, in the early 20th century, the Native population had dropped to approximately 250,000, a decrease of some 95 percent of pre-European contact levels. “A good day to live” is a play on the statement, “It’s a good day to die,” attributed to the 19th century Oglala Lakota leader Crazy Horse. Although public health campaigns for Native audiences did not often address gay men explicitly, it is likely that health workers recognized their increased risk of being infected with AIDS. In response, posters like this one focused on Native males and their traditional roles as warriors and providers as a way of reaching men in the community. Reference: Rowell, Ron, “Native Americans, Stereotypes, and HIV/AIDS, Our Continuing Struggle for Survival, “SI ECUS Report (February/March 1990), pp. 59-65 Reference: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/survivingandthriving/digitalgallery/detail-A032329.html
FIRST SYMPTOMS AND THE SPIRIT MEDICINE CAME BACK WINTER - Gay Men in the US and Sweden and heterosexuals in Tanzania & Haiti begin showing signs of what will later be called AIDS.