In They Write Their Dreams on the Rock Forever, ‘Nlaka’pamux elder Annie York explains the red-ochre inscriptions written on the rocks and cliffs of the lower Stein Valley in British Columbia. This is perhaps the first time that a Native elder has presented a detailed and comprehensive explanation of rock-art images from her people’s culture. As Annie York’s narratives unfold, we are taken back to the fresh wonder of childhood, as well as to a time in human society when people and animals lived together in one psychic dimension.
This book describes, among many other things, the solitary spiritual meditations of young people in the mountains, once considered essential education. Astrological predictions, herbal medicine, winter spirit dancing, hunting, shamanism, respect for nature, midwifery, birth and death, are some of the topics that emerge from Annie’s reading of the trail signs and other cultural symbols painted on the rocks. She firmly believed that this knowledge should be published so that the general public could understand why, as she put it, “The Old People reverenced those sacred places like that Stein.”
They Write Their Dreams on the Rock Forever opens a discussion of some of the issues in rock-art research that relate to “notating” and “writing” on the landscape, around the world and through the millennia. This landmark publication presents a well-reasoned hypothesis to explain the evolution of symbolic or iconic writing from sign language, trail signs and from the geometric and iconic imagery of the dreams and visions of shamans and neophyte hunters. This book suggests that the resultant images, written or painted on stone, constitute a Protoliteracy which has assisted both the conceptualization and communication of hunting peoples’ histories, philosophies, morals and ways life, and prepared the human mind for the economic, sociological and intellectual developments, including alphabetic written language.
Annie York, an ‘Nlaka’pamux elder of Spuzzum, British Columbia, was a cultural authority, healer and oral teacher who, until her death, imparted knowledge about Native society in the Fraser Canyon of the province. She lived a simple but profound life based on respect for all living things, and a morality which transcended the present century. York’s energetic explanations of rock-writings found in the Stein Valley are published in They Write Their Dreams on the Rock Forever (1993).
Author and carver Chris Arnett is a fourth-generation British Columbian on his mother’s side and a member of the Ngai Tahu, a New Zealand Maori tribe, on his father’s side. With a life-long interest in the pre-history and history of British Columbia and New Zealand, he has researched the archeology of the Stein River Valley for the ‘Nlaka’pamux Nation Development Corporation and has worked for the Sooke Region Museum and Archives on a historical survey of logging on Vancouver Island’s southwest coast, which was published in 1989.
Richard Daly is an independent anthropologist who now lives in Norway.