Winter Count: Community activities over winter break


During the AIC Winter Camp 2013, youth of all ages were welcomed to the warm community lodge of the AIC where bellies were warmed every morning with hot eats prepared with the loving hands of AIC community members and staff. After having breakfast, the ceremony of learning began both in sport and in study. With access to the 3rd floor, students and volunteers, learned the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship while playing basketball with community members like Negwes White and Robert Hinmon. There was some variation for youth who prefer activities like archery, salve making, yoga, and native crafts.

Time Traveling

After that, kids went to work on the Lakota Winter Count project. For those of you who are unfamiliar – the Winter Count is a cyclical pattern of pictographs that depict major occurrences happening over a period of time, produced on the back of an animal hide and kept by special members of the community. The Winter Count has many purposes but basically it was used to communicate from the past to the future. We at the American Indian Center feel that the Winter Count Project can be a path to connecting our urban heritage with that of our ancestors. This is kind of like our gift to the AIC community of the future. One of our Community Science Facilitators noticed how, “being Indian, we think of everything in circles and spirals, much like the stars in the Milky Way or the rings in a tree. When we think about narrative, we notice our stories are connections to the universe across space and time.”

The Winter Count Project consisted of a 5 part lesson plan: grounding ourselves with the four directions, introducing the Lakota winter Count and making our own short counts, and exploring the Field Museum for Winter Count and other indigenous methods of record keeping.

Again, big thanks go out to Robert Wapahi who helped facilitate this project. “It’s not something everybody did,” says Robert, “a lot of times it would be an artist or someone in the community whose job it was to keep track of the happenings in the universe.” Robert gifted the project a deer hide he says was “just collecting dust.” If you get a chance, come down to the Indian Center and see the beginning of an Old/New AIC tradition and bring Robert Wapahi some Fritos – he loves them.

Gathering our stories on our own short counts (moon count), we looked at some commonalities and found that some of our stories were shared but offered an individual perspective. This was exactly what we hoped for. In the end we learned a lot about ourselves by doing as our ancestors by exploring narratives: individual, community, and world. From what we experienced with kids and community – 2013 was the year of big changes.

Cold Blooded

During the Winter Break kids were also treated to winter fun and adventure exploring the Cook County Forest Preserves with snow shoes and sleds! The American Indian Center would like to thank, Adam Kessel (Lakota) of the Cook County Forest Preserve for his help and also congratulate him on his recent book: Zombie Gardening. Expect to hear more about the book in the future as the children have been requesting a visit from our friend Adam who was also a longtime staff member at the AIC.

Special Thanks!

The American Indian Center of Chicago would like to thank everyone who made the AIC Winter Camp 2013 a huge success. We must always remember that none of this would be possible without the help from our AIC friends and family. During the two weeks that CPS youth were on break we did – archery (w/Leonard Malatare), basketball (w/Negwes and Robert Hinmon), salve making (w/Felicia and Fawn), deer hoof bell skinning (w/Robert Wapahi), stick games (w/Leonard Malatare, Mavis Neconish, and Eli), Endrigohr (w/Allen Turner), made Wateca Bags (w/Fawn and Janie), snow shoeing (w/Adam), storytelling (w/Eli) and visited historical items (w/special help from Robert Wapahi and the Field Museum).

Thank you to all our volunteers and sponsors for the delicious lunches and snacks that we enjoyed: Tracy DeLeon and Family, the Francisco Family, CK Johnson, American Indian Health Services of Chicago and Staff. Special Thanks to Susan Powers for sharing her knowledge, history and stories with community!

For more information or questions about our winter programming or future programming, email Tevelee Gudino at


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