On the conservative side, most rock art researchers, archaeologist and their academic affiliates will assert that petroglyphs, pictographs and 'geoglyphs' are not writings...
In the strict context of the Eurasian alphabetical structure, this would be a true assertion. However, ancient Native Americans had no knowledge of the symbols referred to as
'alphabetic lettering' and the 'written' word. Their documentation was in the form of picture writings (Mallery 1886), used as memory aides, referred to as mnemonic devices, and employed by tribal 'historical' shaman to enhance their traditional verbal presentations, or by other members of the tribe as trail and territorial markers.
Traditions are living history, memories which define us as people and honor the lives of our ancestors. Traditions can be tenacious, never giving up, refusing to surrender to the whims of popular convention. Traditions are living memories, verbal or written, that honor our ancestors…regardless of our ethnic background.
“Ancient Traditions are forgotten from the minds of those that have not, or who, during several ages have been, without any help to preserve them … New Events and a new Arrangement of Things give predominance to new traditions, which affect the former, and are themselves affected in their turn. After one or two centuries have passed, there no longer remain any marks capable of leading us to find the traces of the first traditions.” (Father Pierre Francois Xavier de Charlevoix 1744)
Today, we recognize the 'cultural' differences between various people, but in the 1800s educational institutions were heavily influenced by Great Britain and continental Europe, the concept of Indians having historical traditions was intolerable. These institutions of higher learning focused on social convention, social status, maintaining proper roles in society, rules-of-law and language to 'rule over people with no history'.
In the mid-to-late 19th century, 'history' was legally and politically defined as a 'written record'. Historians marked the 'history' of a culture by the presence of coherent texts in the culture's writing system. (Shotwell, James Thomson. An Introduction to the History of History. Records of civilization, sources and studies. New York: Columbia University Press, 1922) The American Indian was condescendingly perceived as both primitive and brutal; or as a noble-savage with only verbal traditions and absolutely no history, written or otherwise.
In 1846, the Attorney General of the United States laid out the legal requirements for evicting Indians from their land. These evictions were a precursor to the implementation of the unofficial government policy for manifest destiny: the three requirements were:
*Precise Definition, referring to written history and real estate boundaries
*Logical Arrangement, referring to written legal and academic
*Scientific Arrangement, referring to surveys and empirical data collected
through field research
After four years of planning and development, Railroad attorney, Ethnologist and future New York State Assemblyman Lewis Henry Morgan set in motion a legal strategy designed to fulfill the Attorney General’s legal requirements and systematically evict the Indians from their lands on behalf of his clients, the railroads, mining industry and banking interest.
Morgan was a lawyer. His studies were focused on land ownership and the transfer of property rights, through kinship. Due to the public perception of Morgan’s altruistic theme for his research, 'advancing the lives of the Indians', nobody ever questioned or disputed the use of his empirical data, which was collected by surveys mailed to friends and associates, including Social-Evolutionists Frederic Engels and Karl Marx.
In 1857, the United States Supreme Court upheld the eviction of the Indians from their land. Morgan died a rich man, having made a fortune from his railroad and mining investments.
For the past 163 years, since Morgan began his 'research' the voices of the anthropological community, praising Morgan’s ethnological studies, have drowned out the reality of his legal strategy and tactical deceptions to evict the Indians from their lands. They have also drowned out the voices of the ancestors and their 'history' written in stone.
The following pages examine many of the petroglyphs within the Complex, their preliminary definitions, usage and potential historical relevance to the consolidated Native American Community of today...