1492: An Ongoing Voyage

1492: An Ongoing Voyage has focused on those people who were in this hemisphere before 1492 and on those from Europe and Africa who arrived in the 16th and early 17th centuries.

Indian, European, and African peoples continued to shape new American societies. By the end of the 18th century, these new Americans began to rebel against their European masters. Independence movements spread, creating many separate nations. While colonial languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, French and English became widespread, millions of people continued to speak their own languages, such as Navaho, Quechua, Guarani, and Nahuatl.

While distinct peoples from throughout the world continue to come together in the Americas, many hold on to or reclaim their uniqueness. The process of cultural exchange and adaptation can be seen in religion, festivity, ceremony, and daily life. However, the tensions between tradition and change, prosperity and poverty, tolerance and intolerance in the hemisphere continue to create turbulence for the Ongoing Voyage.

Battiste Good was born during the year 1821–22 into the Sichangu nation, a Dakota-speaking people who are better known by the French rendering of their name, Brulé. In 1878 the Brulé were removed to the Rosebud Agency and there Battiste Good copied his winter count onto sheets of a paper drawing book for Dr. William Corbusier, a U.S. army surgeon, in 1879–80. In 1907, Good made another copy of the calendar, also on paper, which was eventually donated to the Library of Congress. This count spanned the years 900–1907.

Winter counts were used by the Brulé to mark significant events; each year (or “winter”) of the calendar was characterized by a memorable incident which occurred during the period of recording, such as the death of a leader, meteoric disturbances, fights with neighboring peoples, or seasons of plenty and want. The counts were kept and recorded by chosen men, generally elders, who were regarded as knowledgeable in important matters and the trusted custodians of history. The count keeper often passed his record down through his family, who added to it and periodically recopied it to insure preservation.

The section shown depicts cycles of sixty years. In the period 1580–1640, horses were introduced among the Brulé—a result of the Spanish entrada into the Southeast and Southwest—and for the first time buffalo hunters were depicted both on foot and on horseback. The year 1492 was also noted.

Winter Count Calendar. Winter Count 900–1907 (History of the Brulé), detail including entry for 1492. Recorded by Battiste Good, Brulé Chief (1821–1908?). Manuscript Division, Library of Congress