Heritage, Volume 8, Number 2, Spring 1990 Page: 21
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for food by men with stone-tipped spears
and the atlatl, the throwing device that
came before the bow and arrow were
The weather changed. The rains did
not fall as heavily as before. The mammoth
died or went away, along with the bison.
The inland seas dried up and a new life
sprang into being; a new landscape-the
desert land we see today.
But Man hung on. The large game
gone, he hunted now for smaller meat. The
spear and the atlatl were put away. He made
a boomerang and threw it at the rabbit,
brought the new meat home. Women
gathered seeds and leaves, ground the seeds
to flour on the metate, the milling stone,
made patties much like our tortillas of
But there was more to life than
hunting game or gathering seeds. From the
beginning, humans have had one gift that
is unique-the capacity for wonder. That,
and an endless curiosity that leads us over
that next hill, across that far river, makes us
open to new experiences, new thoughts. A
capacity for wonder and a need to think
things out, to find a reason for our being.
And so Man pecked symbols in the rock.
He pecked his art, and then he painted
symbols of the world around him-the
known things and the things for which
there is only wonder, never explanation.
But-if I can pin this down, if I can
make this image, then it's mine. If I peck or
paint this deer, this bighorn sheep upon
this wall, then I take on some of its power.
This is called sympathetic magic. If I draw
this deer and then draw an arrow through
it, I am calling up reality. May our hunt be
successful-we ask this in the name of the
image pecked or painted on this rock. So
religions grow. Is the season a dry one ? Let's
draw the symbols for the rain and wait for
clouds to gather.
And-those images are all around us
to this day. Our Southwest is the greatest
art gallery in the world, rocks and caves and
mesa lands, all carrying their messages from
Yesterday. All this happened in the Dawn
Time, before history began to be written
down. The face of the land changed, along
with the weather and the animals-except
Man, who survived through glacier cold
and the hot, dry times that followed. He
started in small groups, probably never
more than family-size. He followed the
game and the turning of the seasons. Down
to the flatlands after the rains, to gather the
seeds and plants that grew there. Man
wandered with the seasons, and his groups
were small, at first. Large gatherings of
people in any one place would wipe out the
food supply in short order. Those first
groups were what's called a nuclear
family-father, mother, children-and
they grew slowly. A brother, an uncle
might join in a hunt when big game was
the target, and he and his family would
stick around until the meat was gone.
But-along with the satisfied
appetite, there was thankfulness for the
bounty of the Earth Mother, and so a
chant, a dance, might come before the feast
or follow it. A chant, a dance-and, quite
possibly, a visit to the symbols that had
been pecked or painted on the sacred rock
and more symbols painted there, to mark
the great occasion.
Inevitably, someone found out that if
you put seeds in the ground, plants would
grow. If you stuck around long enough,
those plants would come up, and you'd
have a steady food supply. The crops come
in. There's more than enough to feed us,
and some left over to store. What do we do
with the rest? What about Uncle Longhair?
He makes the best arrowheads we've
ever seen. Could we trade some of those
for some of this food we have in surplus?
Franciscan Missionary-XVIII Century
Don Francisco Vdsquez de Coronado-1540
HERITAGE * SPRING 1990
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 2, Spring 1990, periodical, Spring 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45428/m1/21/: accessed July 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.