June 27, 2002 11:00 pm
Ancient communication art: These are a few of the many pictograph flash cards at Think Link's new American Indian exhibit. (The Observer/Dick Mason).
Ancient communication art: These are a few of the many pictograph flash cards at Think Link's new American Indian exhibit. (The Observer/Dick Mason).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Learning to communicate via hieroglyphics is a simple four-step process this summer in La Grande.

Walk up the four steps to the Think Link Discovery Museum at 906 Washington Ave. and you can begin communicating in hieroglyphics almost instantly.

Think Link has a new Northwest Indian exhibit that includes a pictograph display.

Pictographs, a version of hieroglyphics, are picture writing. Many cultures, including American Indians, once conveyed messages with pictographs, pictures painted on rocks.

Today Think Link visitors communicate via pictograph flash cards. Each handmade card has a drawing with the words describing what the illustration means.

Visitors can assemble the cards to create sentences and short stories. For example, cards can be arranged to say things such as: Two brothers went to hunt deer and were bitten by a rattlesnake.

The flash cards are two-sided. One side has a drawing and words describing its meaning. The other side has the same drawing but no words. People can thus quickly test their knowledge of the meaning of the pictographs.

Think Link assistant Belinda Pierson encourages children to create their own stories with the pictograph cards.

"We want to stimulate their imaginations,'' Pierson said.

Children are also encouraged to think about what modern-day hieroglyphic images would look like. For example, an olive branch drawing could symbolize peace and an American flag would represent the United States.

The pictograph display is one of many features of the exhibit, which focuses on the Indians of the Northwest.

The exhibit also has a long house, a lean-to structure made of wood and tule reeds with a buffalo skin floor modeled after one used by Indians.

Another feature are collections of arrowheads and stone donated by Faith Courtney of Union and Jack Krieger of Summerville.

The devices had many uses, including sharpening arrows and scraping hides.

"They are very complete tool kits,'' said Shalem O'Rourke of La Grande, an archaeologist.

O'Rourke is excited about the new exhibit.

"Kids need to know that someone was here before them,'' O'Rourke said.

The exhibit is a credit to long hours of work and research by Nod Palmer of Union and Graham Hicks of La Grande, the Think Link volunteers mainly responsible for its creation.

"We were trying to develop activities for kids to help get them immersed in (the Indian) culture,'' said Palmer, a science teacher at Union High School.

Palmer and Hicks did things such as develop a scale model of what Northeast Oregon looked like centuries ago. It includes a creek with vegetation and models of big game animals that include deer and buffalo.

Other exhibit features include a display of artifacts including decorative pottery.

Other sites have materials for making Indian necklaces and parfleche models. A parfleche, made of rawhide, was used to carry items. Paper for making models of parfleches is available.

Think Link's Indian exhibit will be in place for at least two months.

The museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m.