Thomas Doty – Storyteller
Though the circle symbol appears fairly simple, its meaning can be subtle and complex. Meaning is often dependent upon its placement with other symbols, sometimes called affinity. The circle is an important symbol in the rock writings, frequently-used and extremely versatile.
There are two basic concepts associated with this symbol....
- The first concept has its origins in a gesture in the Indian sign language: extending arms to hold hands with others, everyone holding hands to form a circle. Meanings derived from this concept include to exist, to stay or remain, to linger.... Adding a dot in the center of the circle focuses the meaning on a particular place. "Existing or staying in this place." Where a rock writing is located enhances the meaning. In other words, look around, notice the landscape, and the story will make more sense. Depending on its use with other symbols, it might refer to people camping in a favorite fishing place along the river, or something as extreme as people forced to exist somewhere against their will such as the removal of native people from their homeland to live on a reservation.
- The second concept is less subtle. It simply refers to physically holding something. Again, depending how the circle is used with other symbols, meanings using this concept might include holding a rock in one's hand, holding a bow, and so on....
The circle is at the heart of native world view, and so it makes sense that the circle symbol is used in so many ways ... as eyes to locate and watch, heads to communicate (two heads connected by a line), to give direction (circular spirals). to express ideas of place (circle with a dot), completeness (a rope with the ends tied to make it a circle), the life-giving sun (a circle with rays attached).... It's a long and varied list.