Dakota Datebook

Writing Rock

Saturday, June 12, 2004

In the extreme northwest corner of the state, near Grenora, are two huge granite boulders covered with extraordinary examples of pictographic writing, a form of communication often used by peoples who otherwise had no written language. One recognizable petroglyph is of a Thunderbird, an image that’s been used by Native Americans since the time of Christ.

While the meaning of many of the images is lost to history, both Sioux and Assiniboine peoples considered the site sacred. One oral tradition describes how members of a particular band could foretell the future by how the pictures on the rocks changed. According to tradition, this supernatural power vanished around 1919 when whites moved the smaller rock.

For many years, that smaller boulder was kept at UND, but in 1965, it was returned to what had by then become the Writing Rock State Historic Site.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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