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4 September 2007
Wanapum leader protects ancient petroglyphs

Wanapum leader Rex Buck Jr. studies the basalt cliffs above the Columbia River (USA) where his ancestors tucked their stories in shadows and caves. While Buck is not a regular patrolman, he is one of the few that know specifically what they protect. Every artifact, petroglyph and spiritual landmark along the river has a story, some more than 11,000 years old, according to archaeological studies. The Grant County PUD and the Wanapum formed the fleet in 2000 with a unique pact to make sure the ancient and sacred safely co-exist with the river's modern users. About 15 patrolmen watch for looters, illegal development and changes in wildlife migration. The Wanapum have preserved more than 50,000 artifacts in a repository, said Angela Buck, cultural resource specialist at the Wanapum Heritage Center.
     Ancient symbols sunbursts, animals and circles remain tucked between basalt cliffs. Special rock formations, caves and other sites are unmovable, yet still regarded as sacred. Archeologists and PUD staff made rubbings and took photos of the carvings before the Wanapum Dam was finished. The island was submerged by 1963. The patrol is also a way for the Wanapum to maintain an active presence on the river, despite the modern development moving in, Buck said. "We can co-exist with the people that use it, but we should also be sensitive and make them aware," Buck said. "There's laws that protect the resources and requirements under the (dam) license that provide for those things to be protected and preserved."

Sources: Associated Press, KGW.com (1 September 2007)

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