Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Proposed Power Lines Tangle With Native American History : NPR

Proposed Power Lines Tangle With Native American History : NPR: Imagine running power lines through a cathedral. That's how archaeologists describe what the Bonneville Power Administration proposes doing in the Columbia River Gorge in Washington state. The federal electricity provider is trying to string near a cave that contains ancient paintings, a site considered sacred by Native Americans.

The paintings are inside a tall cave on a rocky hillside in Wishram, Wash. Four humanlike figures were painted in red hundreds or even thousands of years ago. And that's not all.

"There's actually a very complex picture on this wall. You can see little elements of it over here in a different color," says Mike Taylor, an amateur archaeologist who helped write a book on Columbia River rock art. He says for generations, Northwest tribes have used this place for vision quests and other spiritual ceremonies. They still do. In fact, it's so sensitive, the nearby Yakama Nation declined to speak on tape about this cave. Taylor says it's rare to find one still intact.

"In the rest of the world, a lot of people know about the painted caves in France and Spain, which were painted 15,000 to 30,000 years ago. To us here, this is about as close as we get from an archaeological perspective to anything like that," he says.