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Petroglyph Tour

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Today I traveled with my friends Don and Hanne to meet up with the archaeology club at Columbia Hills state park in Washington. We toured the collection of petroglyphs and pictographs at the Temani-Pesh-wa site. Much of this Native American rock art along the walkway was removed from the Columbia River gorge when dams were being installed. An additional group of pictographs and petroglyphs is on the gorge walls in a restricted area, accessible only with a ranger. Archaeology club had arranged for our group to tour through the restricted area with an archaeologist who is an expert in the Columbia River rock art.

The area is very beautiful. California poppies were blooming along the walkway where the relocated petroglyphs are located. This area is open to the public.

Our guide then took us on a hike into the restricted area. He was excellent, knowledgeable and informative, an expert in the field who has written two books on the subject of rock art of the Columbia River plateau. The restricted area was closed to prevent continuing vandalism And overuse. It is accessible to the public only twice a week, and only on pre- arranged guided tours.

Our group

The trail is above the Columbia River, in an area that in pre-historic times supported many Native American villages.

Our archaeology guide, Jim Keyser (he is up on a cliff below a Yakima polychrome pictograph)

The trail ended at the most famous Columbia River petroglyph, She Who Watches (Tsagaglalal). In Wishram tribal legend, before people were really people, coyote visited all the villages. He stopped at one village, and noticed the people were healthy, their homes were well built, and they had enough to eat. He talked to the tribal leader who was an old woman who watched out for the village. He told her that soon only men would be able to be tribal leaders, and he changed her into Tsagaglalal so she could watch over her people forever.

This is a stunningly beautiful petroglyph that remains important to local tribes. Several offerings were left on the rock below; and offerings were also left by some of the other sacred petroglyphs. Before the area was restricted, Tsagaglalal was vandalized by a shotgun; others were painted over or hacked at. And many artifacts were stolen. I am really glad I finally got to see this wonderful site, and that it is now monitored and protected.

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