Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Spirit of Vantage

To the casual observer, Vantage is the kind of town for measuring distances between other, more important places; halfway between Spokane and Seattle; or perhaps it highlights the irony of the surrounding country: a desert in the heart of the Evergreen State. However, closer examination reveals a remnant of sacred history.

The Wanapum Tribe once dominated this section of the Columbia River and were noted for their deep spirituality. They resisted white influences and refused to sign treaties, and as a result, their numbers dwindled considerably. Modern interpretive signs at a nearby scenic area declare the Wanapum are "virtually extinct," but I seriously doubt that claim. Their spirit lives in this place; their bloodlines and traditions continue in Native families throughout the region.

Travelers can visit the Ginkgo Petrified Forest on the far edge of town. A small museum displays the petrified remains of exotic plant species from the distant past. The museum also hosts an impressive display of ancient petroglyphs. The rock drawings originally stood at the water's edge of the Columbia River, but when the dams were built, the petroglyphs were removed to their current location.

The Wild Horses Monument occupies a sweeping hilltop vista just across the river from Vantage. In the words of the monument artist David Govedare, the Creator tells the following story:

"Creatures of this planet, behold, a Great Basket! I send this basket, bearing the gift of life, to all corners of the universe. Now take these ponies, I am cutting them loose. They will inspire a Spirit of free will. They will be a companion for work and play on this planet. This is a way for you to see how all life depends on all other life. This basket is my heart. You are at one with me. Eagle of the sky, we look to you for vision. Salmon of the water, we look to you for life-giving sustenance. Deer of the land, you provide a bountiful tranquility for our Mother Earth.

"From the center of my Basket burns the fire of our collective souls. Humans, you are responsible. You have the power of reasoning and the gift of free will. Use them wisely. Always be aware of the limitless nature of this ever expanding universe. Let us live to inspire each other."

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