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.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Shavano Valley Petroglyphs, Part 2: Rock Art Maps

Have you used Google Maps lately?  How about AAA Triptiks.  Remember Rand-McNally?  Maps
have been an essential part of the traveler’s gear for thousands of years.   We’ve all seen pictures of ancient maps used by mariners, but did you know that Native Americans also used maps?
 
Many of the hunter-gatherer cultures, like the Ute and their predecessors, were highly mobile, constantly moving to keep pace with plant and animal food sources.  They depended upon their knowledge of game trails, hunting strategies, and locations for seasonal plants. Carol Patterson wrote, “Powell, one of the first anthropologists to describe Ute life ways, went so far as to remark that:
 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Shavano Valley Petroglyphs, Part 1: Tunnel Cave

IMG_4458
 A few miles northeast of Montrose, Colorado, canyon walls look down on fertile Shavano Valley.  Pecked onto the patina of Dakota Sandstone boulders are ancient petroglyphs crafted by hunter-gatherers recording the beliefs and preserving maps and history  from 1000BC until AD 1881.  The valley was popular through the centuries because of an artesian well and abundance of game.  Ute trails converged at this site where the young could learn the history and traditions of their ancestors.
 
 
 
 
This is a preview of Shavano Valley Petroglyphs, Part 1: Tunnel Cave. Read the full post (459 words, 7 images, estimated 1:50 mins reading time)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Cherokee Fables: What Stars are Like

Starry Night, van Gogh

This week the sky provided us with wondrous things to observe.  Sunday was this year’s “Supermoon” which is the first full moon when the moon is at its closest point to earth.  It was accompanied by the Perseid Meteor Shower which occurs every year around this time when the earth’s path crosses the debris left by the comet Swift-Tuttle.
 
Man has always been intrigued by the sky and its mysteries and has tried to explain the phenomena in the sky with careful observation and reasoned hypotheses.  This week I would like continue the series on Cherokee Fables with the Cherokee story “What the Stars are Like” as recorded by James Mooney in the late 1800’s . . .