Saturday, September 28, 2013


Meteorological symbols. Figure 80, York, They Write 
Their Dreams on the Rocks Forever, p. 115.

The 'Nlaka'pamux people of the Stein River Valley, in British Columbia, Canada, have a heritage of rock art in their territory to which they still refer, and which their elders interpret. Some of this is recorded in the 1993 book They Write Their Dreams on the Rocks Forever, Rock Writings in the Stein River Valley of British Columbia, by Annie York, Richard Daly, and Chris Arnett. In this book Annie York, an elder of the 'Nlaka'pamux people, interpreted one panel as referring to meteorological conditions.

“- - there’s that oval with the slits and the line up and down. That’s really a weather-teller. The weather symbol. When you see that sort of shape in the sky, when the moon or the sun has a black mark here in it, you can tell that there’s going to be bad weather. It’s really a cloud and the up and down line is how the light and shadow comes through it. You often see that. One kind is the sun-dog. Every day it’s been there – that’s why we got this wet weather now. (p. 116-7)

Crepuscular rays at sunset, Aurora, Colorado.
Photograph Peter Faris, Oct. 4, 2010.

22˚ Halo with Sun Dog, Denver. Photograph Peter Faris, 1995.

Annie's reference to the sun coming through the cloud is best illustrated at sunrise or sunset when the background sky is a little darker than during the bright of the day. If a low sun is projecting light rays upward through the contours of a cloud this is known as crepuscular rays. The alternative would be a slightly higher sun shining downward through the contours of a cloud (not illustrated) creating the sunset rays that we all are familiar with. 

On October 21, 2009, I posted a column titled The Sun Paints His Cheeks wherein I speculated that a petroglyph of a circular sun symbol surrounded by a ring of dots might be an illustration of multiple sun dogs (parhelia). In this pictographic example we have an interpretation from the descendants of the creators of the imagery that one symbol refers to the light that passes through a cloud, and also refers to sun dogs (parhelia). Whether or not the original creator of the image had that in mind when it was painted it certainly carries that meaning now. This is yet another indication of the importance environmental conditions carried for people of the First Nations, and now also for their descendants.


York, Annie, Richard Daley, and Chris Arnett,
1993    They Write Their Dreams on the Rocks Forever, Rock Writings in the Stein River Valley of British Columbia, Talonbooks, Vancouver, B.C.

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