And So It Continues

Back in the far distant past the First People began leaving marks on the walls around them. Simple designs, sometimes no more than a scratch, perhaps signifying that they were there. We call these marks petroglyphs.

As time went on the marks grew more sophisticated, representing more elaborate concepts. Animals, human shapes odd to our eyes, strange swirls or repetitive parallel lines in a group perhaps indicating a river or stream. These were just a few of the shapes amongst thousands left on canyon walls, along stream beds, in caves, anywhere the people went.

The most important of the images they placed on the surface of their surroundings was the shape of the human hand, their hands, the hand of the individual making the drawing. This mark said here I am. I am a person. I am important. Know all of you that I have been here. These are known as pictographs if they are painted onto the surface of the rock.

Usually the images created were chiseled into the surface of the stone by hammering the design into the surface of the rock by striking it with another sharper more pointed stone, chipping away the dark patina of the rock leaving an indelible lighter contrasting representation of the design, a petroglyph. But occasionally a simpler more direct method was used. By simply placing their hands into a medium such as paint or even mud and pressing their palms against the stones surface they achieved the same result although a much more impermanent one, but the meaning was the same, a pictograph. Here I am, I leave my mark for you to see.

That type of image creating usually did not stand the ravages of time, especially if it was left exposed to the elements, but they are found in caves and other protected places looking much as they did when they were created.

We think of these kinds of images as something out of history. An art that served its purpose but has been replaced by newer forms of image creating. Yet it appears that is not totally the case. These handprints on the metal in the image above were left by the direct descendants of those First People just a few days ago at a place that is itself historically significant.

Every year along the banks of the Little Bighorn river there is a reenactment of a famous battle called the Battle of the Little Bighorn where General George Armstrong Custer and all the men of the 7th cavalry under his command were engaged by a superior group of Indians including chiefs Sitting bull, Crazy horse, Gall and others. The result is well-known as it was a critical victory for the tribes fighting to remain independent and self-sufficient. Custer and his men were decimated to the last man.

This year the reenactment of that fateful battle took place on the 23rd, 24th, and 25th of June, on the Real Bird ranch adjacent to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument near Crow Agency, Montana and included members of the Crow tribe and various groups representing the cavalry. Each side took great pains to be as true to the period as is possible today, with the cavalry in full uniform and equipment and the Indians in full regalia and paint with even their horses painted for battle.

So it was not surprising to see these modern pictographs placed at the site where the warriors of today watered their ponies and waited for the fighting to commence along the Little Bighorn river, near the ford in the river that led to that fateful battle site.  Somehow it’s comforting to see the continuation of these same handprints used today as they were millennia ago. Young men partaking in a mock battle yet still requiring their total participation both mentally, physically and spiritually. By creating these new pictographs they are saying, I too, am here. I am a Man. I am important. History and tradition is moving on through this time period as it has since the beginning. And so it continues.


The Baboon King


There was a time when the First People came up into the world after living under the ground. They had lived there for a long time and had grown to be many. Soon there were too many people because at that time all of the different beings that we now call animals were people too. Because of the closeness and the crowding the people began to fight amongst themselves, each wanting to be in the best place, living in the largest caverns so their kind could prosper and grow and be superior to all the other people.

As is always the case some of the people were much cleverer than the others and could figure out tricks and plans that would take advantage of the other people. Fooling them until soon the clever ones were very important because their cleverness now allowed them to own the best caverns underground, and because they were powerful they would not let the others come in. The misplaced ones who were not clever were made to find cold, dark places where they soon lost what cleverness they had and began to change from being one of the people into lesser beings. Some falling so far from grace as to become prey for the more clever ones. It was a time of great calamity for all who lived underground.

One of the cleverest of all the people were the baboons. They were nimble and being very glib could talk the others into making choices they never would have made otherwise. They had the First King Under the Ground and he ruled with an evil fist. The baboons being so clever soon ruled many of the best caverns and even had those who were soon to be human beings once they were on the land, tricked into giving up some of their freedoms to the baboons. Some of the humans, but not all.

Cleverness is much like Life itself. It has a way of finding its way to the forefront of those that possess it and it did so with the humans. They also had a King but he was a benevolent King preferring to use his mind to change things instead of using power, and he came up with a plan to free themselves from the Baboon people and make their way to the surface where there was so much room, so much land, they could not ever be forced to serve anyone but themselves ever again.

He carefully gathered all the other people together and told them his plan. The baboons were so vain that they rarely came out of their cavern and ignored anything the lesser people had to say. Because of this they were unaware of the plan the human King set in motion, preferring to eat and drink and laugh at the fact that they were so powerful and smart. The Baboon King laughed the loudest and ridiculed those he thought of as his subjects.

Because all the caverns were set far apart and connected by wide hallways it was easy to get from one to another. The human King thought that if they could narrow the canyons enough they could trap the Baboon King in his fine cavern. He had grown so large and soft because he was served by his followers that he could barely move. They would have to make the hallways very narrow so that not only could they trap the Baboon King but many of his most loyal supporters also. The human King knew that if they didn’t keep most of them caught in the cavern they would soon face the same problem again.

Gathering every single member of all the people underground except the baboons, he spoke to them at great length about what it would be like when they went up into the world above the canyons. How there was light present everyday for as long as they needed to do what they were meant to do, and darkness that came after the day was done to cool them down after their days work was done, and this happened every single day of their lives. And how they would be free to choose what kind of person they would be and no one would ever change them.

He then had them put their hands and paws and hooves and fins and scales against the sides of the hallways, and using every ounce of willpower they had, using their belief that they would have a better life when they left the caverns, they began to pull the edges of the hallways together. As the rock began to move the people felt stronger and stronger and they pulled even harder and soon the hallways were so narrow that the Baboons were trapped in their cavern. Only a few who had not totally fallen under the spell of the evil Baboon king made it out. Which is why we still have baboons today, and although they are still clever they were never able to assume the power they once had.

The Baboon King was so filled with rage after being trapped, that his anger took over and he raged and struggled and cursed everyone else in the world. He was so angry that his blood raced through his body, gradually leaching his anger out of him until all of his anger was gone. It was replaced with the purple sand that surrounded him until he was finally and completely turned to stone. And so he has remained the Baboon King Under the Ground until this day.

On some days, not all days mind you, but some, if you stand in just the right place in the lower parts of the cavern in what is called Antelope canyon, you can see The Baboon King’s profile. It is fleeting because when all the people left, to live above in the world, a fissure opened up over the Baboon Kings chamber so that the people could come back and look down at the Baboon King and remember him so they wouldn’t ever let another evil king treat them as unworthy people again. The light falling into the cavern from the fissure above will let you see the stone kings face. But light being what it is doesn’t stay in one place very long so you have to be there at just the right time. Sometimes if you’re really lucky you can get a picture of him.