Written by Rocheport resident Cheryl Thomas
Sometimes it’s best to be alone in order to fully appreciate the beauty, history and tranquility of Rocheport. Take a slow walk to the river; listen, smell, feel the weight being lifted as you go. Sit down awhile and wait. Be patient and quiet. The show will start soon. The birds, bugs, snakes, turtles, and fish will entertain you. They either forget you’re there, or they’ve accepted that you mean them no harm. I like to think it’s the latter. Listen to the trees as their trunks rub against each other in the breeze. Listen to the leaves move, the limbs on the ground snap to some unforeseen force.
Who else sat in this area hundreds of years before you and pondered the sights and sounds? There’s a pretty good chance you’re sharing the same spot where Indians and fur traders stood in the past.
What did they see and hear that you don’t? What do you see and hear that they didn’t? I can imagine they saw many more animals than you’ll ever be able to appreciate. You can be sure they didn’t hear the machinery at the sand plant, or the traffic on the I-70 bridge. They didn’t see the contrails in the sky or the warning signs and buoys along the river. But you can both agree that it’s a beautiful, powerful thing to see; the river in her glory and strength, rolling, laughing, giving and taking.
As the sun begins to set, you slowly amble home. The mourning dove serenades you as you walk alone. Are they sad because the sun is leaving, it’s the end of a peaceful day? Or is that a lullaby they sing to one another, “all is well and we’ll do this again tomorrow?”
Late into the evening a magical, spooky yet beautiful chorus will start. The coyotes far and near, perform their ritual. It’s a mesmerizing and haunting sound. Then the owls chime in as they communicate with others within hearing. Listen to the bats chirping as they flit around above your head. You know you’re fortunate to listen in, to be allowed to share in this, the night sounds that have gone on for centuries and hopefully will continue for many more.
Rocheport and the natural settings around it are a true blessing, a gift to be opened and shared. Slow down, walk away, and clear your mind. Be alone with the thousands of wonders waiting for you out there. It’s a true gift to cherish.
Rocheport Historian Monett Lite's brief synopsis of one of Rocheport's most famous artifacts. Her article is part of a book written in 1992 entitled "Rocheport Memories" available at the Friends of Rocheport Museum or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Gregory C. K., editor
Illustrations 1881, Teubner
by Monett Lite
Long before the white man set foot on the abundant lands of Missouri, the Sacs, Foxes, Kickapoos and Potawatamies maintained a reverent existence along the Moniteau Creek and Missouri River. The Indians* called the creek "Manito" or "Creek of the Great Spirit." The waterways afforded the Indians a comfortable lifestyle with plenty of wild came and a means of travel. They buried their dead upon the bluff next to the "Manito" for safekeeping and painted hieroglyphics on the bluffs to demonstrate their faith.
John Bradbury, naturalist, in his journal of a voyage up the Missouri River in 1810, mentioned the "Manito" rocks in the Rocheport area and explained that the Indians often applied the word "Manito" to unusual manifestations of nature which they highly venerated. He described the primitive red-keel Indian paintings on the bluffs as representations of deer, buffalo and other animals.
Maximilian, Prince of Wied, traveling up the Missouri River in 1833, noted many red figures on the bluff among which was that of a man*** with uplifted arms.
The Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804 opened westward expansion of the white man. By 1815, the Indians signed treaties relinquishing all rights to their lands north of the Missouri River. As the Indians moved south of the Missouri River and later west to Indian Territories, signs of their existence diminished. In 1892, the sacred burial grounds were destroyed. Indian bones were dumped into the Missouri River. The pictographs were blasted by dynamite and lost, all to accommodate the expansion of the M.K.T. Railroad. A few examples of the pictographs remained as late as the 1950s. Now weathered away, all that remains are an occasional arrowhead and the "Great Spirit" of the Moniteau Creek.
* archaic., derr., slang. current synonymn Native American
** Red Keel a.k.a. Red Ochre, an earth pigment common to clay soil. Orange-red in color, ancient and versitile it can be made into a primitive chalky pencil (Tom Sawyer uses Ochre to write on a pine shingle in moonlight), a non-toxic stain or dye, or refined and dissolved into industrial pigments.
*** Illustrations below depict females, they are taken from a different panel than the one mentioned in the book.
Written by Brett Dufur