The Winter Count i
Peter Morin


This version of the land story is my Winter Count, a collecting of the events for the village, recorded, and stored for future generations on the skin of the most holy buffalo.

This version is a further version, one for the living memories of our villages and one for the families of storytellers who keep the stories and share the stories at the proper times.

This version is written inside our bodies; written inside the blood, inside memories and cells; written on our skin, and traveling to our people on our breaths.

This version begins with the songs that the Crow sang to help along this creation.

Imagine the medicine that was used to overcome the dark.

My Mom said He sang:

I saw the light
I saw the light

No more darkness
No more night

Now I'm so happy
No sorrow in sight

Praise the lord
I saw the light

My Grandma said He sang:

Don't let the Stars get in your eyes
Don't let the Moon break your heart

My Grandpa said He sang:

I've seen fire and I've seen rain
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I'd see you again

So don't look down upon me, Jesus
You've got to help me make a stand
You've just got to see me through another day
My body's aching and my time is at hand
And I won't make it any other way iv


When I go outside I collect the raven feathers I see on my long walks around the lake. The feathers are large, larger than the ravens' themselves. They are so large that it takes many hours to get the collected feathers home and up the stairs to home, at the Holt's apartments.

Once they are there, with me, in the apartment, I wash them clean.

Then those feathers tell me things, with the same quiet voices I hear the ancestors using. Then I wrap them in red cloth. I tell them feathers, that I make a sacred contract with them feathers to watch over them like they are family, better than family, better than the blood, from the beginning to the end.

Then they are happy.

These feathers are my record of the land story, the land, the stories, and the people.
I keep them in my bookshelves of my body for safekeeping.

The story of the land story is one of many breaths we have.

When I tell the story to you,
The breath leaves my body
to go into yours.

This is how the story moves.
This is how the story lives.
This is the contract we make.
This is how the story became written.

It is written inside our bodies.
The story makes our bodies
into our books.

There has always been a reason
why the story is told this way.

It is here that the story stays.
It is in this way We cannot forget.


Shirley Bear v told me about the libraries.
Jerry Evans vi told me about the libraries.
Eduardo Galeano vii told me about the libraries.

The Land has become our library.
The Land is our body.

Any story creates a responsibility.

When They,
the explorers,
the murderers,
the gold-hungry,
the liars,
the priests,
the anthropologists,
the ethnographers,
the government,

first came to us,
They told us there was no written language.
They told us there were no books.

Then they held out their book.
A book from outside of their body.

It's no wonder we didn't recognize it.

They didn't know what was inside our books,
They didn't know the stories of their books.
And yet, They still tell us
that there is no written language,
that there are no books.
It's no wonder they had a hard time.

Right now I am cold in my heart
and in my heart I remember when these English viii first killed us.

Now this English is killing us again.
If I hold out my hand to you and
You stand there and look back into my eyes.
You will see a hundred thousand ghosts.

Together with these ghosts
We are an army.

You will never really know

I grieve for this

I grieve for the ones
Who think it is right to steal from the land.

Our bodies are the libraries of the land.
This is where we keep our stories


Storytelling is responsibility.

You have to earn your story.

You have to work to tell it.

You have to know what the words mean
For it to matter.

i. A "winter count" was a Native American mnemonic device passed from one generation to another marked with pictographs that recorded noteworthy events in tribal life that took place each "winter" or year.

ii. I Saw The Light, words and music by Hank Williams, 1948

iii. Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes, Words and Music by Slim Willet*, 1952
- Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. ASCAP

iv. Fire And Rain, words and music by James Taylor 1970
- Warner Brothers Records

v. Born on the Negootiook (Tobique) First Nation Community in New Brunswick, Shirley Bear is a multi-media artist, a writer, an activist and a native traditional herbalist. Her art work is in many private and public collections and she has had many solo and group shows, from 1968 to the present.

vi. I feel compelled not only to celebrate but to dissect and explore my native heritage, how it relates to the European culture and how the two cultures, of which I am a part, interact and affect each other. My aim will remain to nurture a better understanding of aboriginal cultures and peoples both for myself and those experiencing my work.
-Jerry Evans, 1998

vii. Genesis, the first volume of Eduardo Galeano's Memory of Fire trilogy, is both a meditation on the clashes between the Old World and the New and, in the author's words, an attempt to "rescue the kidnapped memory of all America." A fierce, impassioned, and kaleidoscopic historical experience that takes us from the creation myths of the Makiritare Indians of the Yucatan to Columbus's first, joyous moments in the New World to the English capture of New York, Genesis is a panoramic interpretation of the Americas no work of history has previously imagined.

viii. The use of the word English in this stanza refers to the process of colonialism and its continued effects from 1492 until the present.


Peter Morin is of the Crow clan of the Tahltan Nation of Telegraph Creek, BC. Peter spent 4 years working with Redwire Magazine, as a community educator and advocate for First Nations youth, through media, writing and art. As a practicing visual artist, Peter's work looks deeply into issues of First Nations identity, family and healing. His most recent work includes "Team Diversity Bannock, the World's Largest Bannock attempt", "7 Suits for 7 Days of Colonialism", and "Stop, Drop and Bingo". (back)

Artist Statement

I want my art to honour my home, to honour the stories, words, and songs of my people from the traditional territory of the Tahltan Nation.

In my art practice, I am making a return that original self, my Tahltan self. Returning to look at this model and understand how it is intrinsic to my existence. I now recognize the favorite places of my childhood, places in the traditional Tahltan territory as foundational to my identity. I work towards becoming reconnected to these places, about honouring this history, and about re-learning our stories, songs, and language. The work has always been about these stories, and about my grandmother's teaching.

My training is in painting, printmaking, and drawing. My art has brought together reflections of the land and community to build a deeper understanding of the effects of colonialism. At my 2004 solo exhibit, "Stop Drop and Bingo", featured at the Urban Shaman Gallery, the works reflected on bingo as a container for ideas surrounding identity, community and the effects of historical narratives on First Nations identity. As a part of the two-person exhibition "Futuristic Regalia", at the Grunt gallery, I presented an entirely new body of work based in textile, referring to button blanket regalia, and printmaking. This work addresses issues of safety, cultural clothing and ideas around urban First Nations identity.

My art is a record of the process that I make each day within the understanding of my culture and language. My voice is Tahltan. It comes from the land, from the traditional Tahltan territory. (back)