North Dakota Government site North Dakota Tourism site

American Indians of ND: Winter Count

Winter Count

Have students create their own Winter Count using symbols found at the following sites:

Materials Needed:

  • Brown grocery bag (only half of a bag is needed)
  • Brown and black tempera paint (optional)
  • Bucket or sink of water
  • Permanent sharpie black pen


  1. Cut a brown paper bag on the seam and cut out the bottom.
  2. Cut it in half.
  3. Crumple the bag; dip it in water; squeeze; remove from water; uncrumple; and repeat twice.
  4. Carefully tear out an outline of an animal shape keeping in mind the four legs, the tail, and a neck. (Teachers: show pictures of hides or an example of one.) Optional: Mix a little black paint with the brown and paint it on one side of the hide while it is still wet.
  5. When the skin is dry, “write” your own Winter Count using symbols found on the sites listed above or from a hard copy. Practice your story first on scrap paper.
  6. Write your story on the skin in pencil. The story should begin in the center and follow a circular pattern. Then, with a permanent black marker, trace over your pencil drawings.
  7. Have the students tell their story to others by pointing to the symbols on their skins.