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Ridington lecturer examines creation of tribal histories by American Indians

Dr. Harvey Markowitz
April 16, 2014

American Indian scholar Harvey Markowitz will explore “Lakota Sioux Winter Counts: Visual Art, Performance, and History,” during the Annual William and Edith Ridington Lecture at 7:30 p.m. April 22 in McDaniel Lounge.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, explores the unique method developed during the 17th century by at least five Indian peoples of the Great Plains for organizing pictographic and oral accounts of memorable events into tribal histories.

“The Lakotas called such histories waniyetu iyawapi or ‘winter counts,’” Markowitz says. “By this method, Lakotas established a chronology of significant events that simultaneously enabled them to organize, remember, and recount stories of their past.” 

Harvey Markowitz is one of the leading experts in American Indian culture, history, and religion. An associate professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., his research examines the inter-relationships among American Indian religions, landscapes, cultures, histories, and identities.

Markowitz has served as a consultant for the National Endowment for the Humanities Hypermedia Tribal Histories Project, a linguist for the Native Americans Lakota Language Project and a museum specialist/fieldworker for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

A prolific writer, editor, and speaker, he frequently comments on Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans. Most recently he discussed “Post-Mortem of a Flop: Johnny Depp’s The Lone Ranger,” on Northeast Public Radio’s Academic Minute. He is also co-editor of the book “Seeing Red: Hollywood’s Pixeled Skins,” which publisher Michigan State University Press describes as “informative, comic, and plaintive, a unique collaboration by scholars in American Indian Studies that draws on the stereotypical representations of the past to suggest ways of seeing American Indians and indigenous peoples more clearly in the twenty-first century.”

Markowitz earned his Ph.D. in the History of Christianity at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School, his master’s at Indiana University and his B.A. at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He is fluent in French and the Lakota language of the Western/Teton Sioux.

The Annual William and Edith Ridington lecture honors two long-time teachers at McDaniel, William Robbins Ridington and Edith Farr Ridington. After the Ridingtons’ deaths, their family endowed this annual lectureship, which began in 1991.

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