News Release

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site Hosts Dr. Robert David for Presentation on Rock Art of the Klamath Basin

A curved rock wall with carved lines and shapes.
According to Dr. David, ancient Modoc ancestors carved these designs into the wave-cut notches of Ancient Tule Lake as a means of communicating with their spirits.

Robert David

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News Release Date: March 9, 2023

Contact: Theresa Langford, Cultural Resources Program Manager

The National Park Service is pleased to announce that Dr. Robert David, a Klamath Tribal member and Archaeologist, will be giving a talk on rock art of the Klamath Basin titled “Spirit Songs and Sacred Fire”. The talk will be at the Fort Vancouver Visitor Center, Saturday, March 18 at 1 pm. This event is free, but advance reservations are recommended.

For over a century, the petroglyphs at Lava Beds National Monument, a unit of the National Park Service, have been a mystery to visitors and rock art researchers alike. Attempts to explain these petroglyphs have included a variety of perspectives but conspicuously excluded the voices of those who produced the petroglyphs - the Klamath and Modoc people themselves. "Lava Beds protects some of the most significant rock art in Northern California," said Dave Curtis, Lava Beds National Monument Archaeologist. "Dr. David puts the Klamath and Modoc back into this important story."

Dr. David proposes that, while the Klamath and Modoc might have largely forgotten the details of their rock art heritage, this information is in no way lost. Information preserved in their sacred narratives and supplemented by early ethnographic and ethnohistoric accounts demonstrates that the Tribes have retained a substantial amount of information about Petroglyph Point and their Klamath Basin rock art heritage overall.

Dr. David, a member of the Klamath Tribes, is an Adjunct Professor at Portland State University, where he earned an MA in Anthropology. He participated in the Public Archaeology Field School at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in 2001, an investigation at the site of the fort's Sale Shop, and later volunteered int he park's archaeology lab. He earned his Ph.D from the University of California - Berkeley. Dr. David has studied Klamath Basin rock art for more than 20 years and is currently working on projects in Lava Beds National Monument.

"Robert David is a wonderful example of how Indigenous people can contribute to their communities while working in heritage preservation fields like anthropology. It is gratifying to see him work with some of the top people in the field, achieve his Ph.D., and contribute to research that is meaningful to us all," said Dr. Doug Wilson, a National Park Service Archaeologist who was the instructor for the Fort Vancouver field school.

WhatSpirit Songs and Sacred Fire: A Presentation on the Rock Art of the Klamath Basin, with Dr. Robert David

When: Saturday, March 18, 2023, at 1 pm

Where: Fort Vancouver National Historic Site Visitor Center, 1501 East Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver, WA 98661

Cost: Free, but advance reservations are recommended. To reserve a spot, please go to the Friends of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site website.

Last updated: March 9, 2023

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