Sunday, January 31, 2016


George A. Custer, 1873.
From Urbaniak, 2015.

On December 27, 2009, I posted a column on ROCK ART OF THE LITTLE BIGHORN in which I presented a couple of rock art panels which have relations to the battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, the so-called Custer Massacre.

In his 2014 thesis for the University of Montana titled HISTORIC INSCRIPTIONS OF THE NORTHERN PLAINS IDENTITY AND INFLUENCE IN THE RESIDUAL COMMUNICATION, Timothy Urbaniak has included an inscription of George A. Custer, although apparently we cannot relate it to the Little Bighorn battle. This inscription can, however, be associated with the 1873 Yellowstone Expedition/Northern Plains Railroad Survey.

"The Yellowstone Expedition of 1873 was an expedition of the United States Army in the summer of 1873 in Dakota Territory and Montana Territory, to survey a route for the Northern Pacific Railroad along the Yellowstone River. The expedition was under the overall command of Colonel David S. Stanley, with Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer second in command." (Wikipedia)

1873 Yellowstone Expedition
map. Public domain.

"During the summer of 1873, troops under the command of Colonel David S. Stanley, Lieutenant Colonel G. A. Custer, 7th Cavalry Detachment, Lieutenant Colonel Luther P. Bradley, 8th and 9th Infantry Battalion, Major Robert E. A. Crofton, 6th and 17th Infantry Battalion, and Charles J. Dickey, 22nd Infantry Battalion, accompanied surveyors of the Northern Pacific Railroad under the leadership of Thomas L. Rosser, Engineer in Chief in an expedition to examine the Northern Plains landscape along the Yellowstone and Musselshell Rivers in the Montana Territory for the purpose of potential railway routing (Eckroth 2013:13). Toward the close of that Expedition, Lieutenant Colonel Custer remained with the surveyors as they left the Musselshell River and navigated east to rendezvous with Colonel Stanley, who had taken another route." (Urbaniak 2015:120-1)

Portrait of George Armstrong
Custer, 1873, St. Louis Missouri,

"During this process it became apparent that an inscription reading "George A. Custer 1873" (Figure 5.35) was adjacent to the plotted route. Although the GPS location of the inscription is several miles to the north of the route mapped by the railroad surveyors, it is well within the viewshed of the thousands of people and associated traveling wagons, horses, and livestock that accompanied the expedition. The inscription certainly is not in an area that would lend itself to "being carved to promote tourism," and if the intent was to attract attention, it may have been more neatly inscribed. It is interesting that the inscription does not include a group association with a military unit, a common communication behavior shown to occur elsewhere. Other faint lines on the sandstone surface may indicate that it was superimposed over a petroglyph figure. In addition to the proximity to the mapped trail of the 1873 Yellowstone Expedition, anecdotal support from the sparsely populated locals maintain that the inscription has been known to have been there since first viewed by early immigrants (Jim Meyers 2012, elec. comm.)." (Urbaniak 2015:121)

I am personally somewhat surprised that this inscription has survived un-vandalized, given the approbation that the name George A. Custer arouses among most Native Americans. Not that I would condone vandalism in any way. My personal opinion is that having a historic inscription of the name George A. Custer, serves as a reminder of how badly we once behaved toward the original inhabitants of the area, and may, perhaps, prompt us to do better by all people in the future.

NOTE: Once again I wish to thank Timothy Urbaniak for permission to use material from his thesis. Good work Tim, and thank you.


Urbianik, Timothy Rostov,
2014    HISTORIC INSCRIPTIONS OF THE NORTHERN PLAINS IDENTITY AND INFLUENCE IN THE RESIDUAL COMMUNICATION, Dissertation Presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology The University of Montana, Missoula, MT,  July 2014.


Saturday, January 23, 2016


Spotted cat petroglyph, Farrington Springs,
Bent County, CO. Photo Peter Faris, 1990.

On May 1, 2009, I posted a column titled "A Spotted Cat Petroglyph In Southeastern Colorado." In this I showed a petroglyph from the marvelous rock art site of Farrington Springs and speculated as to exactly what it represents. The petroglyph, of an animal covered with spots and with a long tail and small ears appears to represent a cat, so then we ask ourselves what kind of cat? The first guess of a spotted cat that might live in that locale would be a young bobcat as they are covered with spots. Bobcats, however, have short little stubby tails, and this cat has a long tail sticking out behind him. Also, this animal is obviously not meant to represent a young animal as it has the phallus of a fully grown male animal.

Little Rock's tipi, Southern Cheyenne, made 1904.
Buffalo Bill History Center, WY. Photo Peter Faris.

In that posting I wrote "So what kind of cat is this? Other examples of spotted cat imagery can be located in Native American art. One that can be pointed to is the image on the painted model tipi (above), owned by the Field Museum, Chicago, which was collected in 1904 by Smithsonian ethnologist James Mooney and was displayed at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center at Cody, Wyoming, when the photograph above was taken. Another example I have seen is a carved stone pipe shaped as a spotted cat, attributed to the Mississippian culture. That carved stone pipe has been identified as an ocelot, which is one of the possibilities for identity of the spotted cat. The closest report of an ocelot sighting that I have been able to locate was somewhere along the Texas/Oklahoma border which might fall within about 100 miles from the petroglyph site. The other possibility for a long-tailed spotted cat is the jaguar, sightings of which are still reported irregularly throughout the southwest. In either case (ocelot or jaguar), they are now extinct through much of their former range in the southwest, and even in prehistoric times were probably quite rare. This suggests that the sighting of one of these animals was a significant event, worthy of reproducing on your tipi, your pipe, or on the cliff." (Faris 2009)

Panther pipe, Hopewell, AD 1 - 400, Mann
Site, Posey County, Indiana, from Townsend,
2004, Hero, Hawk and Open Hand, p. 63.

Another source of comparative imagery can be found engraved on a shell gorget which has been attributed to the Hopewell culture and is the Missouri State Artifact. This so-called Jaguar Gorget was excavated from a mound near Fairfield, Missouri, and is assigned to the Kansas City Hopewell based upon associated artifactual evidence.

Jaguar gorget, Hopewell. From: Wood, 2000,
The Jaguar Gorget-"The Missouri State Artifact",
Missouri Archaeological Society Quarterly,
April-June 2000, 17(2):8-11.

"The identification of the image on the gorget as a jaguar, Felis onca, seems secure. Only the slightly elongated body mars its realism. The configuration of the body, the nature of the spots on the torso and underbelly, the form of the head and ears, and the short tail all support this identity. The only disharmonious features are on the creature's neck. Rather than being spotted, the neck bears dots and dashes reminiscent of the ocelot, Felis pardalis, although the neck on that species carries solid heavy lines.Both jaguars and ocelots are native to tropical to subtropical and desert parts of Central America, but their historical ranges extended into southern United States. The jaguar once inhabited parts of southern California, most of Arizona, parts of western and central New Mexico and, more to the point here, southeastern Texas and southern Louisiana (Hall 1981:1037-39, Map 524). All of these locales are far from southwestern Missouri, but we have no way of knowing the distribution of the animal in the past." (Wood 2000)

This then brings up the question of  the time period during which jaguars and ocelots roamed eastern North America coexisting with people.
"The Pleistocene fossil record proves that jaguars once ranged over most of North America.  Jaguar fossils have been found as far northwest as Whitman County, Washington and as far northeast as Port Kennedy, Pennsylvania.  Across the southeast jaguar fossils are among the most common of the large carnivores found by fossil collectors.  Along with dire wolves they were probably a dominant predator in the region’s forests for most of the Pleistocene, being more common than the infamous saber-tooth."  (Gelbart 2010)

So, what is the most likely identity of the spotted cat at Farrington Springs in southeastern Colorado? Given indications that both ocelots and jaguars might (and I emphasize might) have existed throughout much of North America in relic populations, and also given that considerably larger numbers of ocelots and jaguars existed in Mexico to stray or wander northward before the coming of the modern firearm, it appears that the identification of this petroglyph as an ocelot or jaguar is warranted.


Faris, Peter
2009    A Spotted Cat Petroglyph In Southeastern Colorado,, May 1, 2009.

Gelbart, Mark
2010    How Recently did the Jaguar (Panthera onca) Roam Eastern North America,

Townsend , Richard F., general editor, and Robert V. Sharp, editor,
2004    Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand: American Indian Art of the Ancient Midwest and South, Art Institute of Chicago and Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

Wood, W. Raymond
2000    The Jaguar Gorget-"The Missouri State Artifact", Missouri Archaeological Society Quarterly, April-June 2000, 17(2):8-11.

Saturday, January 16, 2016


"G. Crook, 1876", inscription.
Photo:Urbaniak, 2014.

I have mentioned this inscription in two previous postings (to view them click on the General Crook entry in the cloud index at the bottom of the blog) but only from field drawings as I did not have an actual photo of it. Now I can present a photograph of the General Crook inscription courtesy of the previously cited (Tom Horn, 12/11/2015; Kid Curry) 2014 thesis dissertation of Timothy Urbaniak, HISTORIC INSCRIPTIONS OF THE NORTHERN PLAINS IDENTITY AND INFLUENCE IN THE RESIDUAL COMMUNICATION . Tim has generously allowed me to reproduce some of his illustrations of historic inscriptions and quote his text.

"From 1875 to 1882 - Crook was head of the Department of the Platte. Crook served against the Sioux during the Great Sioux War of 1876-77. He fought the Lakota at the Battle of the Rosebud. On 28 May 1876, Brigadier General George Crook assumed direct command of the Bighorn and Yellowstone Expedition at Fort Fetterman." (Wikipedia)

General Crook, Wikimedia.

Crook left Fort Fetterman the next day with over 1,000 troops consisting of "15 companies from the 2nd and 3rd Cavalry, 5 companies from the 4th and 9th Infantry, 250 mules and 106 wagons. On 14 June, the column was joined by 261 Shoshone and Crow allies." (Wikipedia)

"The Battle of the Rosebud," from
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper,
1876, public domain.

On 17 June, during a rest break, the troops heard gunfire from the north and a scout rushed into the camp shouting, "Lakota, Lakota" and the Battle of the Rosebud was beginning. "By 0830, the Sioux and Cheyenne had hotly engaged Crook's Indian allies on the high ground north of the main body. Heavily outnumbered, the Crow and Shoshone scouts fell back toward the camp, but their fighting withdrawal gave Crook time to deploy his forces. Rapidly firing the soldiers drove off the attackers but used up much of the ammunition meant for use later in the campaign. Low on ammunition and with numerous wounded, the General returned to his post. Historians debate whether Crook's pressing on could have prevented the killing of five companies of the 7th Cavalry Regiment led by George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn." (Wikipedia)

"G. Crook, 1876", inscription
highlighted. Photo:Urbaniak, 2014.

"At the Rosebud Battlefield there is a long sandstone cliff line that was once used as a buffalo jump and that has provided a canvas for communication for millennia. Petroglyphs dating to precontact times, primarily in the form of shield figures, are incised along the surface of the sandstone cliff. The surface also contains historic inscriptions including one of "G. Crook 1876" (Figure 5.40); since the incising is shallow, it has been traced for clarity (Figure 5.41). Due to the fact that it takes time to create an inscription, even such a shallow one, and due to the fact that the Rosebud Battle began in the morning and just a few hours after Crook and his men arrived at Rosebud Creek, there was not likely a lot of time for a pre-battle incising, and there is no mention of the act in Crook's autobiography (Crook 1986:194). It is possible that someone else carved it as a commemoration; or Crook created he inscription when he returned to the site in the 1890s; although if that was the case he did not spend much in the effort." (Urbaniak 2014:122-3)

So, is this inscription attributable to General Crook? Well, if in the sense of did General Crook carve it himself, I do not think we can answer that. But, if in the sense of was it carved by someone else when General Crook was there (in the general vicinity) I think that is very likely. In either case it brings back a fascinating period of Western History - thank you Tim.


Urbianik, Timothy Rostov,
2014    HISTORIC INSCRIPTIONS OF THE NORTHERN PLAINS IDENTITY AND INFLUENCE IN THE RESIDUAL COMMUNICATION, Dissertation Presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology The University of Montana Missoula, MT,  July 2014.


Saturday, January 9, 2016


Another illustration from the PhD
thesis of Timothy Urbaniak (2014)
identifies "Kid Curry, 1901."

"While inscriptions of "outlaws" have been documented further south into Wyoming, evidence of them roaming eastern Montana is scarcer, with the exception of the inscription "Kid Curry 1901" (Figure 5.77), located on a lone sandstone outcrop north of Ingomar, Montana." (Urbaniak 2014:130)

"Kid Curry came to Montana when he was about 16 and eventually started a ranch south of Landusky with his brothers. But when a feud erupted and Curry shot Pike Landusky, owner of the brothers’ favorite saloon, Curry skipped town for Wyoming." (Tribune Staff 2014)
The Wild Bunch, Logan is on
the right in the rear, public
domain photograph.

In Wyoming "he joined a gang of bandits led by “Flat-Nosed” George Currie (no relation) and Harry Longabaugh, alias the “Sundance Kid.” George Parker, alias “Butch Cassidy,” later joined the gang, eventually known as the Wild Bunch. The group’s legendary robberies include a bank hold-up in Belle Fourche, S.D., and Union Pacific train robberies." (Tribune Staff 2014)

"On July 3, 1901, Kid Curry and the Wild Bunch pulled off one of the most successful train robberies in U.S. history. At Exeter Creek, about six miles west of Malta, they held up the Great Northern Railway passenger train. They disappeared with $41,500 in unsigned tender. 
No one was ever convicted for the Great Northern robbery, but Kid Curry was arrested later that year in Tennessee for forging bank notes — presumably from the same train heist. 
He was sentenced to 41 years in prison but escaped in 1903." (Tribune Staff 2014)

The 1901 inscription of Kid Curry at Ingomar, Montana, would likely have been carved before the July 3, 1901 train robbery because, afterward the gang (including Kid Curry) would have been concentrating on evading the law. Indeed, if you are being chased by a posse, or just sought by Pinkerton agents, you are not likely to leave your name carved on a rock to give a clue towards where you had gone. Urbaniak concluded that the inscription was connected with the train robbery. "It has been speculated that the inscribing is connected with a trip to rob the Great Northern train near Wagner, Montana, which he did on July 3, 1901." (Urbaniak 2014:130)

Harvey Logan, AKA Kid Curry,
public domain photograph.

"Curry’s later activities are debated, but Nate Murphy, curator of Outlaw Lawmen Collections at the Phillips County Museum, said the most reliable information comes from the Pinkerton detective agents who trailed the Wild Bunch’s crime spree. Their records say Curry’s corpse was identified in Colorado. He was wounded in 1904 during a gunfight after a botched train robbery in Parachute, Colo. To avoid being captured, he shot himself in the head." (Tribune staff 2014) Kid Curry was buried in Linwood Cemetery, in Glenwood Springs, Colorado (Doc Holliday is also buried there).

Although the popular movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid glamorized the details of the gang's activities, including train robberies, we will do well to remember that these were violent acts and innocent people were injured and killed.

Linwood Cemetery, Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

Such historic inscriptions can provide us with a direct emotional and intellectual link to events of the past, to the deeds and circumstances that have led to our society today. Indeed, I have been to Parachute and Glenwood Springs, Colorado, many times, and I have even ridden the train through them. I love these historic inscriptions because of such feelings of connection, and the way they allow us to better  understand the history of who we are and where we live.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

NOTE: This material is presented through the generosity of Tim Urbaniak, who compiled much of this material for his 2014 PhD thesis, HISTORIC INSCRIPTIONS OF THE NORTHERN PLAINS IDENTITY AND INFLUENCE IN THE RESIDUAL COMMUNICATION RECORD at the University of Montana, in Missoula.


Staff, Great Falls Tribune, 2014.

Urbianik, Timothy Rostov,
2014    HISTORIC INSCRIPTIONS OF THE NORTHERN PLAINS IDENTITY AND INFLUENCE IN THE RESIDUAL COMMUNICATION, Dissertation Presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology The University of Montana Missoula, MT,  July 2014.


Friday, January 1, 2016


Congressman Rob Bishop,
of Utah's first Congressional
District, Chairman of the House
 Natural Resources Committee


The examples of rock art shown here (below), and many, many more, were called "Bull Crap" by House Natural Resources Committee Chair Rob Bishop, who represents Utah's first Congressional District.

Reported by the staff of Native News Network on July 13, 2015, the story reads:
"WASHINGTON - House Natural Resources Committee Chair Rob Bishop, dismissed the historical value of Native American artifacts as a basis for establishing national monuments last Friday (July 10, 2015), as first reported by Greenwire in a story about President Obama's designation of three new national monuments:
"There is nothing that Obama did today that had anything to do with antiquity," Bishop said. "There are criteria for using the act. There is nothing Obama announced that had anything to do with the criteria." (nativenewsnetwork)

Rock art at Basin and Range
National Monument, Nevada.

When he was asked about the Native American artifacts at the Basin and Range National Monument site in Nevada, including cave paintings, he said, "ah, bull crap. That's not an antiquity." (nativenewsnetwork)

Ranking commitee member Raul M. Grijalva released the following statement in response.

Rock art at Basin and Range
National Monument, Nevada.

"The natural and cultural resources protected by these designations are, in fact, antiques; species and trees and rocks and cave paintings and beautiful landscapes are all quite old. We want them to remain antique, House Republicans want them to become extinct." (nativenewsnetwork)

Rock art at Basin and Range
National Monument, Nevada.

"Grijalva thanked and congratulated President Obama earlier today for his designations of Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument in California, Waco National Monument in Texas, and Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada." (nativenewsnetwork)

When we are faced with such staggering ignorance and insensitivity what can we do but keep trying to preserve the beauty and knowledge. What can we do? I can designate congressman Rob Bishop as the 2015 recipient of the coveted and prestigious Certifiable Rock Art Prevarication (CRAP) award for his stupidity. Congratulations Mr. Bishop, winner of the 2015 CRAP award!