Ted Howard: At Celebration Park, a bit of tribes' history

April 28, 2014 

The Idaho Statesman published a story April 1 about students from the College of Western Idaho documenting petroglyphs carved into boulders at Celebration Park near Melba. That story inspired Ted Howard, cultural resources director for the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, to offer a different perspective on the area.

The Shoshone-Paiute/Bannock people have inhabited Southern Idaho for countless generations. The Snake, the Boise and Payette rivers were all important to our people because of the resources that were available in the rivers and along the banks of the rivers. Anadromous fish used these rivers to migrate to their spawning beds in the many tributaries that fed these rivers and the Snake River. There are various plants available along the banks of the rivers that are important to the tribes. There are natural rock shelters that were used to cache food for later use, and some provided shelters for the people.

Archaeological theory maintains that the boulders at Celebration Park and along the Snake River with the petroglyphs came down from somewhere upstream during the Bonneville Flood. The tribes do not support their theories. Maybe some of the rocks did come down with the flood, but we do not agree that the petroglyphs were on these rocks. If there were petroglyphs on these boulders when they rolled for several hundred miles to this location, the petroglyphs would have worn off.

Archaeologists also point out that most of the petroglyphs on these boulders at Celebration Park are in an east- and south-facing direction. Isn't that a coincidence, or do they really think that the boulders all landed at that location with the petroglyphs facing east or south? The tribes are the only experts on these remnants left by our ancestors.

Tom Bicak proudly points out that there are hundreds of petroglyphs along the Snake River. He attempts to interpret the history of the area and our people, and he uses archaeological theory in his attempt to interpret our history. That cannot be accomplished using archaeological theories. Contemporary tribes are living cultures. We still practice our traditions, and we still visit many of these locations throughout our homelands.

Archaeologists refer to our sites as "prehistoric." Tribes don't have a prehistory - we have one continuous history. These sites are not prehistoric. They are contemporary sites that are important to the tribes contemporarily and into the future.

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