Thursday, September 25, 2014

Great Sites, Part 1: Tahlequah

To get a good feel for Cherokee culture and history, Tahlequah, Oklahoma, is a great place to visit.  It is located in the heart of “Green Country” and “Lake Country” in northeastern Oklahoma and is the capital of the Cherokee Nation and the Keetoowah Band of the Cherokee.  There are a number of historical museums and the Cherokee Heritage Center where a visitor can learn about the historical and pre-historical Cherokee.
IMG_4572We began our tour in downtown Tahlequah with the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum built in 1844.  It is the oldest government building still standing in Oklahoma.  The museum features in addition to exhibits on the Cherokee judicial system and the Cherokee language, exhibits on the first Cherokee newspapers–The Cherokee Phoenix and the Cherokee Advocate.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Shavano Valley Petroglyphs, Part 5: Reading the Signs

Up until his death in 2000, LaVan Martineau devoted over forty years to unlocking the secrets behind the petroglyph (and pictograph) symbols left by the Native American.  Part Indian himself, adept in sign language, fluent in native languages, and expert in cryptanalytical methods, he brought a unique perspective to the challenge and opened the door to a new understanding of the meanings behind the symbols.  Carol Patterson, in Montrose, Colorado, carries on his legacy in her studies of the symbols using his methods to expand our knowledge of rock art and symbology.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Shavano Valley Petroglyphs, Part 4: Curiosities

This week I want to share with you some of the more curious petroglyphs at the Shavano Valley Petroglyph site near Montrose, Colorado.
FLet’s start with this “butterfly next to a plant” glyph.  The “plant” is actually a tree motif.  The cosmic tree, according to Ute cosmology, has three roots that penetrate the Underworld and the fork at the top penetrates the Sky World.   This motif is recreated on the “butterfly” to the right and looks like its body.  The “wings” of the butterfly are actually the five levels of the Ute cosmos–the sky world, upper world, center world, lower world, and  under world.  The levels are curved just as the horizon appears to the viewer.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Shavano Valley Petroglyphs, Part 3, The Bear Dance

The Bear panel at Shavano Valley Petroglyph site near Montrose, Colorado, is an intriguing example of Ute symbolism.  The panel incorporates glyphs from recent times overlaid on very ancient ones.  Look closely and you can see a faint line coming out of the crevice in the rock face (bottom right).  The line goes up and then branches.  Part way up on the line is a woman or man carrying a back pack and a planting stick.  The line and the figure were pecked into the patina of the rock face.  It is a classic case of using rock incorporation of cracks and crevices in the story being depicted.  Here the person has emerged from the underworld, represented by the crevice, and is travelling along the trail provided by Sinauf, the creator, with a basket of seeds and a planting stick.  Also, part of this era are more branching trails and animal tracks.  This story is the oldest depicted on the panel.