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Potomac Books


The Year the Stars Fell, The Year the Stars Fell, 0803222114, 0-8032-2211-4, 978-0-8032-2211-3, 9780803222113, Edited by Candace S. Greene and Russell Thornton

The Year the Stars Fell
Lakota Winter Counts at the Smithsonian
Edited by Candace S. Greene and Russell Thornton

2007. 377 pp.
14 color illustrations, 916 b&w illustrations, 2 charts, map, index
$45.00 t

Winter counts—pictorial calendars by which Plains Indians kept track of their past—marked each year with a picture of a memorable event. The Lakota, or Western Sioux, recorded many different events in their winter counts, but all include “the year the stars fell,” the spectacular Leonid meteor shower of 1833–34. This volume is an unprecedented assemblage of information on the important collection of Lakota winter counts at the Smithsonian, a core resource for the study of Lakota history and culture. Fourteen winter counts are presented in detail, with a chapter devoted to the newly discovered Rosebud Winter Count. Together these counts constitute a visual chronicle of over two hundred years of Lakota experience as recorded by Native historians.
A visually stunning book, The Year the Stars Fell features full-color illustrations of the fourteen winter counts plus more than 900 detailed images of individual pictographs. Explanations, provided by their nineteenth-century Lakota recorders, are arranged chronologically to facilitate comparison among counts. The book provides ready access to primary source material, and serves as an essential reference work for scholars as well as an invaluable historical resource for Native communities.

Candace S. Greene is an ethnologist in the Anthropology Collections and Archives program at the Smithsonian Institution and author of Silver Horn: Master Illustrator of the Kiowa. Russell Thornton, a registered member of the Cherokee Nation, is a distinguished professor of anthropology at the University of California-Los Angeles and author of The Cherokees: A Population History (Nebraska 1990).

“In this wonderful book, readers are presented with more than 900 individual pictographs signifying several centuries of tribal knowledge. . . . Taken together, these fascinating images provide an alternative history of the American West as written by those who were there in the beginning and remain there now. Like the Bayeux Tapestry—the embroidered cloth that preserves a visual history of the Battle of Hastings—these images challenge written recollection and revisit history in a way that takes us away from our own age and out into the greater world of ideas and images. In such works we can begin to recover a portion of that which has been obliterated by time.”—The Bloomsbury Review

“Richly illustrated, The Year the Stars Fell is an outstanding contribution to the understanding of the cultures of the Plains Indians.”—American Archaeology

“This volume’s careful introductions and its clear visual and contextual presentation of the counts should serve as a model for future endeavors. . . . Highly recommended.”—CHOICE

“This volume is an unprecedented assemblage of information on the important collection of Lakota winter counts at the Smithsonian, a core resource for the study of Lakota history and culture. . . . A visually stunning book. . . . Serves as an essential reference work for scholars as well as an invaluable historical resource for Native communities.”—Indian Artifact Magazine

“The Lakota winter counts in the Smithsonian collections, as well as those of other tribes, have a longstanding and continuing relevance to native scholars and other individuals with interest in tribal histories and artistic and cultural traditions. This book . . . will reinforce an appreciation of this creative means of recording history for readers within and outside of tribal communities.”—Emma I. Hansen, South Dakota History

 “[T]he book is a solid scientific work, clearly arranged and well-written. Furthermore, it compiles information which was previously scattered in various publications or has not been published previously. Moreover, the illustrations–the colour photographs of whole winter counts as well as the black-and-white photos of each event shown in a drawing–are impressing.”–Dagmar Siebelt, Anthropos: International Review of Anthropology and Linguistics

"[The Year the Stars Fell: Lakota Winter Counts at the Smithsonian is] an ambitious work of scholarship that opens the winter count collections of the Smithsonian's Department of Anthropology to their Lakota communities of origin and to a wider general and academic audience, including such specialized disciplines as anthropology, history, and folklore."—Joseph C. Jastrzembski, Journal of Folklore Research

"This informative and beautifully produced and illustrated book examines a number of 'winter counts' together on a chronological basis. . . . By presenting a number of counts together, it aims to produce a better basis for historical reconstruction."—Bruce Ingham, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Research Institute

“A visually pleasing wealth of information. . . . The book is the most extensive, detailed, and well-researched reference source on Lakota Winter Counts that has been published to date. The editors Candace Greene and Russell Thornton, do an excellent job of arranging the images and provide valuable comments and notes along the way. Christina Baker’s introductory chapter on the Lakota winter count tradition and extensive bibliography add considerable value.”—James Thull, Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education

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