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Platte River Rainbow

Our mural is inspired by ancient Aboriginal wisdom, science, and folklore of Australia. Painted by Oregon Trail 4th and 5th graders, our mural was designed by Anne Bovee in collaboration with Janet Wragge, and Artist in Residence Paul Taylor. 

The center panel of our mural is a map of our land and the watershed that gives it life. The watershed map is painted using the traditional dot technique of the Aboriginal people.  Each dot represents the raindrops and snowflakes that are so critical to the life here in Wyoming.  They also represent each living creature that touches the land and is born of and made of this water..

Each color represents the different landforms that make up our beautiful place in the world:  

The dark green is the mountains, covered in trees.  It is there that the snows accumulate during the winter until the warmth of spring releases it into the streams and rivers, bringing life back to the land.

The red areas are the red buttes found throughout our community.  The red soil is rich in iron.  It was the source of the sacred red paint color used by the native people of our area and represents the “blood of the Mother Earth.” . Bessemer Mountain, found in “the narrows” west of town, created a natural barrier for the pioneers.   

The cream areas are the hills of sand and stone so common in our area. They often hide fossils in the deeply eroded soil. Sage, small shrubs, and grasses provide food and shelter for the animals that live in this harsh landscape.  Alkali is common in this landform, making any fresh water even more precious.
The gold represents the vast open lands of the prairie.  Many see the prairies as flat, uninteresting land, yet it is teeming with life as it rises and falls in small hills and valleys.
The blue is the water.  It is the lifeblood of our land.  The small veins come out of the mountains and flow into the Platte River, our main water source.  Our town, Casper, is nestled at the base of Casper Mountain. It is marked with the shield.  To the west, Alcova and Pathfinder Reservoirs, hold the water until it is needed and ends up in our very homes..  They are marked with the symbol of water.  The water is scarce on our high desert landscape, so the rivers, lakes, and streams are jewels that sparkle with its gift of life-giving water. The dots also represent the shimmering of light on water. If you fix your look on our painting for 20 seconds it starts to shimmer, proof that the land is alive.

Our land tells the story of time passing with the worn mountains softly rising above us, and the deep canyons that have been worn away by water over time.  Our black panels bracketing our watershed tell another story of time passing.  The circles represent the rock art left behind by the ancient people.  Each circle tells their story and represents the planets of our solar system..   The footprints represent the fossils left behind by now extinct animals.

The end panels, with the night sky, connect the heavens with the earth…Mother Earth and Father Sky bring the life-giving rain to our land, in a never ending science circle of renewal and balance…cloud, rain, evaporation, cloud and rain again. .  The hands surrounding the sky, like rays from the sun, are the signatures of the 5th graders showing they are ready to move on to the next level. Their print is their school certificate of completion at the Aboriginal Bush University. The mural is their gift to our school as they leave for their next great adventure.

The stars represent the campfires of all our ancestors, our grandparents, keeping watch on us from up top, reminding their children to care for their land and share their water.

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