Thursday, June 13, 2013

Taking a Walk Among Native Petroglyphs

I was supposed to write this post yesterday, but alas my day was filled with fabric and string and fighting with my Aunt's quilting machine to get a project done for a high school friend.  Everything worked out, but it took me a lot longer than I had planned... and I spent the rest of the night watching Downton Abbey and sitting on the couch with a blank stare.  Let's just say, blog didn't get written.

But today is another day, and now I'd like to bring you the tales from one of our interesting Adventure Sundays!

Last week, my mom invited Jason and I, my brother and his wife and my dad for a walk through an old Native American spiritual area-- for a look at some petroglyphs.

It was an awesome trip!  But waking up at 7 am, after working until mid-night the night before did not make me a happy camper that morning.  Jason and I woke up and rolled out of bed, put some clothes on and grumbled our way out the door.  I'd say we grumbled our way though the gorge and across the river to Washington.

The petroglyphs are located at Columbia Hills State Park in Washington, just across the river from The Dalles.  The petroglyphs you see above were removed from the rock wall below the park.  Before The Dallas Dam was built, those carvings ran along the river.  But now the rock wall they were taken from is about 40-feet under water.

To see the rest of the petroglyphs, you have to take a guided tour.  The trail is closed to the public except through the tour, which is held a 10:00 am on Fridays and Saturdays.  The reason for this is because the land is very sacred to the Native Americans, it's where they held vision quests and burial ceremonies.  Also, before the parks department closed the trail, people were defacing the rocks.

The tour itself is pretty great.  The guide has a great sense of humor and you get to up close and personal with lot of great rock drawings.  There are a lot of great tidbits you learn about the drawings as well, like:  did you know they used urine to clean the wall before painting, because it contained ammonia?  And the village elders would mark the wall to count the days of a person's vision quest.

The piece de resistance is what you see above.  It's called "She Who Watches."  And because it's a mixture of paint and rock carving, it's withstood the elements.  Probably the most interesting thing about this particular petroglyph, is the story behind it.  Which I've shared below:

There was a village on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge, and this was long ago when people were not yet real people.  That is, when we could talk to the animals.
Coyote, the trickster, came down the river to the village and asked the chief if her people were living well.  Tsagaglal said, "My people live well.  We have lots of salmon, venison, berries, roots and good houses.  Why do you ask?"
Coyote responded, "Changes are going to happen.  The white mane is coming and he won't want to talk to a woman.  You need to step down and choose a man to be chief."
Tsagaglal said, "No!  I am a good chief.  My mother was a good chief, my grandmother was a good chief, and they will have to deal with me.  Now get out of my house."
Coyote left, but not for long.  He came back and this time he talked to the people.  "The white man is coming, and he will not talk to you chief.  You must choose a man to take over."  The people started to grow restless.  They were arguing loudly about how to fix the situation.
The noise was so loud, it caught Tsagaglal's attention.  "What is going on here?" she said. 
"Coyote has told us, the white man is coming and we need to choose another chief." Her people responded.
"You've caused too much trouble, Coyote.  And now you must go!" she commanded.  For the next two days, Tsagaglal and Coyote fought on the mountain.  Then, at one point, Coyote threw the chief into the rock wall, and that's where she remains to watch over her people.
Some even say, she's waiting for the chance to come down for the rock and take over once more.

I wrote that based on what I can remember from the tour guide. It's not perfect, and I'm sure people who know the story well could tell it a lot better than I could.  But, there you have it.  I thought it was amazing that a woman was in charge.  Maybe it's just the fact that I grew up in a predominately white society, but it seems that women have a hard time being on top.  And here is this group of people who were run by strong women.  It's a bit inspiring, don't you think?

We didn't get to stay for much longer, because we had to speed back to town to get to work.  But we did get to see this amazing view on the drive home.

**Note: If you're driving to Columbia Hills from Portland, I would cross the river at Hood River so you can see the pretty views of Mount Hood.  You do have to cross a toll bridge, but it's $1.00 each way.

***Another Note:  The trail is very rocky and uneven.  Also there is a danger of rattle snakes, so dress accordingly.

For more information on the Hike, the Park and how to schedule your tour, you can visit the Washington Parks Department's website: HERE.

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