By Joanna Bastian
Roberta Hall, known as “Bobbi” to her friends and family, has chosen a senior project that is long-lasting and visible in her community. The Pateros High School senior, working with art instructor Todd Steenhard and the Pateros Junior High art class, recreated rock images found throughout the Methow Valley onto concrete tiles that will be included in the upcoming Methow Monument educational park in Pateros. Bobbi, a Methow descendant, chose this project to improve her community and learn more about her Native American culture.
Bobbi chose her project to learn more about her cultural heritage. Even though she lives on the same bend of the Methow River in the lower valley where her family has lived for countless generations, there is a glaring gap in the history books when it comes to Native American history.
“My history teacher tries her best to find everything she can for us to learn about our history, but the text books don’t say much,” she said. “This project made me feel closer to my ancestors, I did a lot of independent study and research.”
It helps that Bobbi’s aunt, Crystal Miller, is an anthropologist with access to reports that are difficult to find. Bobbi relied heavily on two reports in particular, one by Keo Boreson, and another by Debra Featherstone. Both archaeologists worked with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation History/Archaeology Program to conduct exhaustive field studies in the 1980s and1990s, documenting pictographs found throughout the Methow Valley.
During her research, Bobbi considered recreating the images by first etching the pattern into concrete, then applying stain to the image. From that discussion with her aunt, Bobbi learned that there are two types of rock images: petroglyphs and pictographs. Petroglyphs are carved into a surface, while pictographs are painted. Bobbi learned from a culturally sensitive view, that she needed to choose pictographs to stay true to the traditional method of the Methow Valley. “I was relieved,” she said with a sigh and smile. “Painting was a lot easier!”
To recreate the images on the 12- by 12-inch concrete tiles, Bobbi worked for hours in the school library, using the copier to enlarge images found in the reports to the size of the tiles. It was time-consuming to get the size just right, and to select images that did not grossly distort at the larger size. Initially, she and Steenhard, the art instructor, tried using transfer paper to outline the images onto the tiles. But this method did not work. Bobbi then had the idea for students to poke holes along the outline of the images on the paper and then, laying the paper over the tile, dab stain in the holes. When the paper was lifted, students then connected the dots to complete the image. In three days, the class finished 30 tiles. Over the next few weeks, Bobbi then reapplied six coats of stain to darken each image.
“While the stain was drying, I had a lot of time to think about the people who made these pictographs. This is how they wrote and record things,” Bobbi said. “I would think about what they saw, what they might have thought of at the time. They did not keep journals; these images are just bits and pieces of their day.”
In her research, Bobbi learned that the images are difficult to date because they were created using inorganic pigments. She was surprised to find how close the images are to where people live today. All images, known or unknown, remain spiritually important to Native people and are protected by federal, state and tribal cultural preservation laws.
When people see Bobbi’s pictograph tiles at the Methow Monument, she hopes that other students realize the possibilities of subjects for their own senior projects.
“I would not have thought of this as a senior project if it weren’t for my Papa making the suggestion,” she said. “I hope students are encouraged to think outside of the box and talk to other people,” when it comes time to create their own senior project.
As for the people who visit the Methow Monument? “I hope they interact with the history of this place … and see how our literature has changed,” she said.