JEFFERS PETROGLYPHS: History of the People

For immediate release

Release dated: 
April 27, 2015
Media contacts: 

Jessica Kohen, Marketing and Communications, 651-259-3148, jessica.kohen@mnhs.org
Tom Sanders, Jeffers Petroglyphs Historic Site, 507-628-5591, thomas.sanders@mnhs.org

JEFFERS PETROGLYPHS: History of the People

American Indian ancestors left symbols and signs on Red Rock Ridge more then 1,000 years before ancient people were building Stonehenge in England or the pyramids in Egypt. A section of the ridge, now referred to as Jeffers, was a destination for many American Indian groups including ancestors of the Dakota, Cheyenne, Ojibwe, Ioway, Omaha, Otoe, Ponca, Mandan, Arapaho, Crow and Hidatsa.

American Indian elders have spent many years increasing today’s understanding of the carvings and the ancient people who came here. For today’s elders, the petroglyphs are not just physical symbols but hold meaning as the ancient carvers’ visions, prayers and messages. Elders have played a role in elevating Jeffers to the living sacred site it is, sharing stories that reinforce the spirit of elder wisdom passed on to the young.

Joe Williams

JOE WILLIAMS
Dakota elder
Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, South Dakota

“What’s the most important thing to take from this site? We were here for thousands of years. And the spirit that we believe in, the Great Spirit, our creator, left his marks, here… that’s why, to us; it’s a very sacred area. These markings that are left here are the survival of the people— the spirit of the people… the markings here are what they used to survive. This place is an encyclopedia of American Indian ways of being, put here by elders to teach us.”

Wind River

FRANCIS BROWN (1931-2005)
Arapaho elder
Wind River Reservation, Wyoming

“Those who would understand the carvings would have to spend a long time learning before they could understand. The carvings are not man-made. The spirits are the ones that do this. That’s what my people know. They are spiritually made for information. In the old days old men knew how to interpret these. This is a sacred place. The spirits are there. That’s what our life is all about.”

Upper Sioux

TOM ROSS (1948-2013)
Dakota elder
Upper Sioux Community Pejuhutazizi Oyate, Minnesota

“I would suggest to a visitor who wasn’t a tribal or indigenous person that came to visit this place. . . I’d say to them, somewhere back down your family tree, if you can go back far enough you’re going to find out you came from a tribal people and if you let that part of you speak to you as you’re up here maybe you’ll find something out about yourself and your own history and your place in the world.”

Carrie Schommer

CARRIE SCHOMMER
Dakota elder
Upper Sioux Community Pejuhutazizi Oyate, Minnesota

“And when you walk around out there and just take your time and it’s like everything you feel is you’re walking amongst the spirit of all our people. And I know that they do enjoy our company. And the things, the signs, everything that they had left out there for us is to remind us of who we are.”

Cheyenne and Arapaho

GEORGE SUTTON (1933-2008)
Southern Cheyenne elder
Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, Oklahoma

“The symbols are there for a reason. They are spiritual information.”

Eastern Shoshone

JOHN TARNESE (deceased)
Shoshoni elder
Eastern Shoshoni Tribe
Wind River Reservation, Wyoming

This is a highly spiritual place here. This is like a church, direction of life; I look at it in that way.”