Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rock Art

This is the graffiti left on rocks by humans thousands of years ago, in what is now the Lava Beds National Monument. The rock on which they are carved was long ago an island in the center of Tule Lake, accessible only by canoe. Since nobody knows for sure what they mean, I won't offer my opinions. But you can look at them and see if they stir any thoughts or seem to hold significance for you.

One day Kamookumpts was resting on the east shore of Tule Lake. Looking around, he realized that there was nothing anywhere except the lake. He decided to make land. He dug some mud from the lake bottom and made a hill. He used the mud from the hill to create land and mountains. He also created rivers, streams, plants, and animals. Creating everything was tiring work, so Kamookumpts dug a hole in which to sleep under Tule Lake. He left the hill he had made to mark the spot. As the mud dried the hill became rock and is still visible today.

-- Modoc creation story

And there it is, the smaller, lower hill on the right in this image. The sheer cliffs you see at the left side of the hill are where the petroglyphs are. Tule Lake has been reduced to about 25% of its former size. The Bureau of Reclamation has built high dikes, to keep the water in smaller areas, leaving much land to be farmed. This is rich, volcanic soil and I'm sure it produces valuable crops. But long ago, and even not so long ago, it was home to the Modoc people. Under the leadership of a young chief, they resisted settlement on a reservation and returned to this land, killed a few more than a dozen settlers and subsequently canoed across the lake to seek shelter in the rough volcanic terrain. There a band of 60 men, women and children held off 600 US Cavalry troops for five months. As you can see, it is no longer a lake. No longer do people in canoes made of native materials ply the waters to hunt and fish.

No comments: