BEND, Ore. (AP) – An American Indian spiritual site in the Millican Valley has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and archeologists and others hope the recognition will cut down on vandalism.
Pictographs painted mostly in red, some that may date back to 1500 B.C., have been chipped, shot at and covered with chalk.
Burns Paiute tribal elder Minerva Soucie said her parents in the 1950s often stopped at the site to show their children the pictographs, many painted by Northern Paiute people.
“It was a place (where) people come and look for direction, or to be used maybe in a spiritual quest process for their lives,” Soucie said.
Two decades later, she saw that change.
“I liked going there until I went one time and it was vandalized,” Soucie said. “It looked like there were panels trying to be chipped off, and that to me was a desecration of our teachings
or our spiritual way of life.”
The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in mid-July.
Paiute Indians – who are associated with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the Burns Paiute Tribe and the Klamath Tribes – continue to use the site.
Cara Kazer, an architectural historian in the State Historic Preservation Office, said Oregon has about 33,000 known archaeological sites, but only between 120 and 130 of those are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Oregon has a total of 1,902 listings on the register.
The newly registered site is on private property. The State Historic Preservation Office redacted large sections of the draft nomination form before releasing it to The Bulletin of Bend, citing the need to keep the location secret.
The pictographs probably date from 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1900, “when access to the site by the Paiute became limited due to their removal to reservations and further intrusions by Euro-American settlers,” according to the nomination form.
People who stopped at the area might have been hunting, trading or traveling to Northern Paiute gatherings. People also considered it a powerful spiritual site.
The latest paintings at the site were probably created by Northern Paiute people who moved into central Oregon within the last 1,000 years, according to the nomination form. Faded pigment underneath some of those could come from earlier paintings and suggests people used the area earlier.
Images include human and animal stick figures, lizards, tally marks and abstract paintings such as grids, zigzags, chevrons and ladder figures.
Since the 1920s, visitors outlined the images with chalk to make them more visible for pictures. The chalk was offensive to American Indians who use the site, according to the nomination form. In 1988, members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs restored the pictographs by removing the chalk with water and brushes.
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