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15 May 2004
Exhibit of Native American petroglyphs opens

A new exhibit of Native American petroglyphs opened quietly this spring in the Columbia River Gorge, which marks the border between the U.S. states of Oregon and Washington. The region once held one of the richest deposits of tribal rock imagery in the world. But hundreds of the petroglyphs were submerged under water in the 1950s, when the federal government dammed the river. Some of the petroglyphs were rescued before the flooding, and now federal officials are trying to make amends.
     Five years ago, U.S. Forest Service archeologist Jim Keyser stood at the base of the gargantuan slab of concrete known as the Dalles Dam. Lining the parking lot were 43 chunks of rock, covered with Native American figures chiseled in the former cliff face hundreds if not thousands of years ago. They were also coated with more modern bird droppings.  Each rock image holds spiritual significance to northwest tribes. There are stick figures of deer and elk, swirling lizards, and haunting owls. Today those 43 boulders are no longer in the shadow of the Dalles Dam. After years of negotiations and effort, they've been moved and delicately cleaned and restored.
     At her office in Portland, Gail Lovell shuffles through drawings of the new petroglyph display she helped organize.  Last fall, Ms. Lovell oversaw a massive two-week project to truck the boulders 10 kilometers over bumpy winding roads to Columbia Hills State Park. Luckily, she says, none of them cracked in transit. Ms. Lovell says centuries after their creation, the petroglyphs remain enormously significant to northwest tribes.
     Bridget Whipple of the cultural heritage committee of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs expects that the 200th anniversary of the explorations of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark will bring thousands of tourists through the Columbia River Gorge. She considers the petroglyphs a one of a kind opportunity for them to learn about northwest tribes.

Source: News VOA com (12 May 2004)

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