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Douglas LaVan Martineau
Birth: Jan. 3, 1932
Death: Feb. 26, 2000

We attended the "Sing" and funeral for our friend LaVan Martineau. This was a unique experience for us and we want to share it with you. We met LaVan after I read his book "The Rocks Begin to Speak" about his system for reading petroglyphs. Suddenly I could read a few of the symbols, too. It impressed me so that I wrote a fan letter c/o his publisher. When he replied he noted the Eagle Valley address on the stationery. His first wife had been a descendant of the original Indian inhabitants of Eagle Valley. This was about the time of his surgery for colon cancer (which finally killed him) and after some recovery time we arranged for him to bring his family to Eagle Valley to show them their roots. In September 1999 they came and stayed for most of a week. We were able to match the skyline in old photos and show them exactly where the old Indian camps had been. We went pine nut picking and ate lots of vegetables and fruit from the garden. They showed us some of their Indian arts and told us about life on the Pow Wow circuit. We all had a wonderful time.

Since then LaVan and I have been communicating by letter and telephone. I had shown him some of the local glyphs when he was here. Later I sent photos of those plus others and he read them for me. It is very interesting stuff. When I have all his notes combined with good photos I will share those with you, too. He last called me about three days before he died to let me know that he had come back from Arizona to St. George. I got the impression that he had come back to die although he would never talk about his condition or how he felt. His voice was strong and he was still working on petroglyphs. He was putting together lessons for a university on the web and wanted to use some Rose Valley petroglyphs if I would get some good photos for him. Of course I will do that, although now I will work with his daughter, Shanan. The morning after he died, his daughter, Carmen, called with the news and invited us to the Sing and funeral.

The Sing was held at the Shivwits tribal hall/school in Sham, UT a few miles west of St. George. The multi-purpose room of the school is about half the size of a gymnasium. One end has a serving counter (There was lots of food, everyone brought something.) and entry into a dining room. At the far corner was the casket with the family members greeting guests in a receiving line. Also next the casket was a large table with many photos of LaVan and family and a clothes rack with many of his clothes--shirts, hat, shoes-- hanging on it. There was also a guest book for signatures and along side were two large bowls, one with candy and another with cigarettes for the guests. The portable chairs in the building were arranged in rows facing each other with an open space in between for the dancers. The lead singers for the Salt Songs sat all in one row and the congregation of singers/dancers sat opposite them. The lead singer was a very old man and most of the others were men in their 60s, with one elderly woman, for a total of six. All of the singers had bottle gourd rattles and they kept time with a simple, slow uniform beat, about 1 beat per second. The lead singer would start each song and all the others would join in. Each song would last for 5-10 minutes and members of the family and anyone else who wanted to, would walk/dance slowly to the beat of the gourd in the open space in front of the singers. The songs were traveling songs with a meaning like, "You have taken the road before me, go in safety. I will be along later, then we'll be together again." In between the songs anyone present could stand and tell the audience what they remembered, what they felt about LaVan. The first speaker was the oldest woman there who remembered the first time LaVan came to the reservation as a young boy. All the speakers remembered the good times with LaVan and many noted how much LaVan had taught them about their own Indian culture--petroglyphs, traditional skills like arrow and bow making, flint knapping, even their language. The all night sing was meant to wring every emotion from the mourners, to bring back every memory, to say the words that would heal any negative feelings between anyone present. People were there from most of the western states and Canada. This total immersion in the mourning process was meant to effect a complete catharsis. Afterward every one should get on with their lives.

At the same time in another part of the room was another singing group from Peach Springs, AZ on the Hualapai reservation north of Flagstaff. LaVan had visited the Peach Springs School each year to teach lessons about Indian culture and petroglyphs. He would lead field trips to glyphs around the area and read them for the classes. He is much loved by this tribe who have published the glyphs that he read in "Historic Landsites of the Hualapai". They brought a large banner which included many of the glyphs and a farewell message in English and Hualapai. This group was led by two elderly men who had the most resonant, pleasing, deep base voices we have ever heard. How could just two men sound like a whole chorus? They sang the Bird Dance with a theme like "Fly away, fly away, fly away home". The total effect was very bird like. The melody was more complex and ranged up and down the scale. Very pleasing and melodic. The two singing groups sometimes sang alternately, sometimes at the same time and dancers/mourners would move from one group to the other. Everyone was there to honor the man and his accomplishments and sing him on his way to the next life.

The sing began at 7:00 PM and lasted until sunrise. (We only lasted until midnight.) The next morning at 10:00 a conventional funeral was held at the same place. There was a prayer, a song with guitar accompaniment by one of his oldest friends, speakers from different aspects of his life, e. g. the publisher of his books, a representative from the Cree Indian Nation in Canada and a eulogy by his youngest daughter, Shanan. Shanan gave an eloquent talk about LaVan's life, his family, his work and the intent of the family to preserve his notes and documents about petroglyphs for study by others. She (and LaVan) had been disappointed and dismayed that the university community had not accepted his work. The service ended with an Indian flute solo by Shanan playing her own composition (LaVan's favorite) on a flute of her own making.

My short acquaintance with LaVan has profoundly changed my view of the Indian culture. Too much of our image of Indians and their culture has been the result of movies. Archaeologists have unearthed and documented the lasting (stone and bone) artifacts of their long ago culture and have had no way to reach the non-material aspects. Our western society is based so much on material objects that we can't imagine what a culture based mainly on religion, history and story would be like. No TV, no movies not even any light at night. And every year during those long winter evenings, the history and traditions of the tribe were taught by the elders in the form of songs and stories. Many of the petroglyphs tell the same stories. I was moved by the persistent integrity of the Paiute culture as represented in their process of mourning. The tribe is healthy and vibrant. People work in the local economy and are prosperous. Some of the youth are learning the old songs and traditional ways. LaVan was not a member of the tribe, he was a visitor, had been a short time resident many years before, but a long time friend. When LaVan's family asked for a sing and funeral, the tribe gave him one (and 24 hours of their lives). Indian hospitality is a tradition.

I have had the pleasure of watching LaVan at work reading petroglyphs. He would sit down in front of a panel to study the glyph and its surroundings. He actually carried along a chair so that he could be comfortable and stay there long enough to get it all. I doubt that every reading was all correct, and LaVan, himself, judged that maybe he got 75% of it, but it may be the best we ever have.

You may remember that my brother, Eldon, is a Professor of Linguistics, Ph. D. University of Illinois. He has devoted a lifetime of study to the origins and systems of the human language. He read LaVan's books and has this to say about it:

"If you have any influence with his survivors, it would be a valuable service to assist in getting the material to press that he was talking about. His rock-writing work is interesting to me because it appears to confirm the existence of writing systems lacking any phonetic components, i.e., strictly ideographic. As such, its origins likely predate any writing systems currently known, all of which are either alphabetic or incorporate auxiliary phonetic symbols.

An ideographic writing system corresponds to a concept of language that has only recently began to emerge in modern linguistics, namely, that the words we write or speak are not language proper, but only an outward expression of the real thing, which consists of a system of interacting modules in the brain. In contrast, writing systems that are phonetically oriented focus on the outward forms. The origin of the English term LANGUAGE itself is LINGUA, the Latin word for tongue. The fact that TONGUE is also a synonym for language heralds this same fixation on surface forms.

Anciently, the focus appears to have been on internal forms. The history of writing systems appears to document a gradual shift from ideographics to syllabics to alphabetics, which may well have paralleled a shift from an internal focus to an external focus. The reason for the shift is a topic of considerable interest.

Greenburg and others have published papers in recent years suggesting a common source for the language families of the world. In that context, a facile explanation for the drift from ideographics to phonetics would simply be that as differentiation occurred over time, the contrasts between emerging dialects and languages tended to capture the focus of attention, which, in conjunction with nationalistic pressures provided impetus for the creation of writing systems that both reinforced national/tribal identity as well as providing assistance in reading aloud.

An alternative explanation emerges only in conjunction with linguistic studies that have explored the role of efficiency in language. As systems, languages favor forms that capture generalities and use them to reduce the size of the total inventory required to function. When children regularize English verb forms by saying speaked/runned, etc. rather than spoke/ran/ etc., they are manifesting this tendency to economize.

Another example may clarify this point better. The English counting system uses terms that are multiples of ten (teen, twenty, thirty, etc.) as radicals and suffixes all of them with the same set of specifiers (one, two, three, etc.) This enables English to get the ultimate mileage out of a small set of terms.

Linguistic data that has only recently come to light suggests that anciently, perhaps in the parent language Greenburg (and Genesis) talk about, the lexicon was largely made up of taxonomic paradigms consisting of generic radicals that inflected like English numbers (e.g., cat-ka (tiger), cat-ki (cougar), cat-ku(lion), etc.), where the suffixes ka/ki/ku/etc. are employed in a similar way on all generic terms in the language. Such a language would be vastly more efficient than English, since English employs a different, unrelated form for every species.

Semantic data gleaned from ancient records indicate that the ancient morphological system was at some point catastrophically disrupted when the regularized inflectional endings fell out of use. This gave rise to ambiguity in the uninflected generic terms. In short, CAT-ka/ki/ku become simply CAT, now ranging in its reference over tiger/cougar/lion, etc. Ambiguity, for its part, became a catalyst for further change, setting in motion forces that strive to eliminate polysemous forms at the expense of efficiency.

To make a long story short, the radicals of the ancient taxonomic paradigms (which were maximally efficient in terms of the number of forms required) were supplanted by sets of totally unrelated forms, each new form referring independently to a different inflection of the original paradigm (maximally inefficient).

What does all this have to do with writing systems? Over time, the processes of change in question inflated the lexicon relentless flow of independent, unrelated forms, each of which required a distinct ideograph in the writing system. It is reported, for example, that Chinese used as many as forty-thousand symbols at one time! It seems likely that the sheer impracticality of maintaining and perpetuating an ideographic system under those circumstances may well have provided the impetus for the drift towards syllabic/alphabetic systems. What would you do if you had a choice between opting for an alphabetic system consisting of twenty-four letters or retaining an ideographic system requiring the use of many thousands?

Martineau's work was devoted to assembling the symbols used by rock-writers, defining them, and explicating their use as an ideographic system. How many symbols were there in total? What evidence is there of efficiency/inefficiency in the system? Many questions to be answered. Hopefully, his answers will not be lost to interested parties."

Farrel Lytle

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Shivwits Cemetery
Washington County
Utah, USA
Created by: Geraldine "Gerry" Hume...
Record added: Oct 08, 2007
Find A Grave Memorial# 22029239
Douglas LaVan Martineau
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Douglas LaVan Martineau
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Douglas LaVan Martineau
Added by: Geraldine "Gerry" Humes
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- ghost girl
 Added: Nov. 4, 2009

- Erwin
 Added: Jun. 19, 2008
Rest in heavenly peace.
- C A B
 Added: Jun. 2, 2008
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