Storytelling

Jerome Kills Small with his drum telling stories under a tent.
Jerome Kills Small telling stories under a tent during an Agate Fossil Beds National Monument event.

NPS photo

Native Americans passed on their history through stories and pictures. Storytelling was and is an important part of their culture. There are stories about life and death, about being a warrior, about the buffalo and other animals and plants that were important to their existence. Women passed on the patterns for the quill work and beadwork through stories, where to find the berries and medicinal plants and what the changing phases of life would bring. There are stories about the moon and the stars that guided their paths. Each moon has a name corresponding to the month and what it symbolized, for example the February moon is known as the Snow Moon.

Pictures were also a way of keeping history and remembering the times past. One of the elders was the keeper of the Winter Count, a hide that was rolled up and kept in his possession. On this hide were many small pictures, starting in the middle and working in a spiral. Each picture depicts an important event of the year, i.e. the year of… In the early 1990’s Dawn Little Sky from the Pine Ridge Reservation worked with the museum curators, exhibit planner and history buffs to create the Running Water Winter Count that hangs in the entrance room of the James H. Cook Gallery. Over 150 events are included starting with the beginning of time and ending with the dedication of the currant Agate Fossil Beds Visitor Center in 1992. Dawn Little Sky painted the elk hide and as it first hung in the exhibit she would highlight each event and tell the “story” that was presented there. Now rangers lead the visitors through the events during interpretive talks.

Last updated: April 17, 2017

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