Devils Tower Voluntary June Closure: What are your thoughts?


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Social climber
An Oil Field
Jul 7, 2017 - 09:29am PT
I come from Oklahoma, where there are more native Americans than any other state.

That is strange, because almost every remote Alaskan village is over 90% native. I know what it is like to be one of the only white people in town.

We've screwed over the plains tribes for so long. Even today there is little opportunity on the reservation.

One of my best friends is half Otoe and half Pawnee. When we were growing up, we all wanted some Indian blood in us, because it was cool. There wasn't much racism where I grew up. Anyway, he is an attorney who handles a lot of Indian issues. He told me that they prefer the word Indian to Native American. They are natives, though. They were here first.

He is way into it. He's been to 3 sundances and has the scars on his chest to prove it. He has been wanting me to do one for ages. A couple will admit white people. I once saw him with a whole filing box full of peyote buttons. He drove down and made a run, distributing it among various tribes as he drove from state to state. All legal. He even has a church card if some cop hassles him.

Go read, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee."

Then consider the following: The Supreme Court decided that the Black Hills still belonged to the Lakota. They weren't offered the land back. They were offered a settlement check, which I believe has still not been cashed. They want the land back, with its Gold Mines and towns. Hell. It is their land.

I think the closure of Devil's Tower should be mandatory, not Voluntary. People will just ignore the voluntary part.

With respect to the plains tribes, I say let them have what they want. Not climbing at a stupid rock for a month is a small enough gesture for what happened to them.

Another good book is, "Custer Died For Your Sins."

Read those two, then read "Black Elk Speaks." That is the best religious work that I've ever read, and I've read most of them.

It is a small gesture. Only the guides will suffer, and they should just go to on a vacation every June, and become advocates for the Plains Tribes.

Mountain climber
Clackamas, Oregon
Jul 7, 2017 - 01:04pm PT
Not climbing at a stupid rock for a month is a small enough gesture for what happened to them.

BASE104, some things I've learned from the nearly 200 posts to this thread:

The voluntary closure was made by the park service in violation of its own rules that prohibited one group from controlling access for another group. (Note that they amended their policy after the fact to create a necessary loophole, even though the principle behind the original rule would still seem to be in place.)

There is significant case law that suggests that while a voluntary closure is legal, a mandated closure is not legal. However, this can't be tested in the courts until a mandated closure is enacted. Hence, it will take enough climbers failing to observe the closure to bring the matter to the courts (via a mandate) to determine if a true closure is legally sustainable. (Maybe you have a moral duty to climb the Tower in June so that the matter can be judicated!)

There is a complete absence of Native American artifacts on the Tower. Therefore, there is reason to feel that the request for a closure is, in whole or in part, arbitrary and reflecting the desire of what is quite possibly a minority subset of local natives. This concern is augmented by the fact that the original set of natives who were selected to give input did not desire a closure, at which point the park service shopped around (or so it seems) to find natives (not all of whom were local) to speak in favor of a closure.

The voluntary closure of climbing ON the Tower has no effect on the busloads and carloads of tourists who are in constant circulation AROUND the Tower and who often make approaches to the Tower. Speaking for myself, the failure to close the Tower trail for the month of June indicates that a deep regard for Native populations who desire undisturbed access to the Tower is not what's happening here.

Back to the comment "Not climbing at a stupid rock for a month is a small enough gesture for what happened to them." The concept expressed has some resonance for sure. It would have more resonance if the closure was a real one that included trails, which in my opinion do far more to pierce the peacefulness and beauty of the site. But feelings aside, closing the centerpiece of a national monument for religious reasons is as much of a legal question as it is a social question. Ultimately, it's a request for a monument to drop its monument status (with its attending policies and procedures) for one month each year.

Sport climber
Jul 7, 2017 - 01:24pm PT
So, still, not one f*#king person on here, through all this spittle can tell me what it is that makes the tower 'culturally significant'?

Carbondale, CO
Jul 7, 2017 - 01:32pm PT
This might answer some questions about the tower's cultural significance:

Mountain climber
Clackamas, Oregon
Jul 7, 2017 - 02:21pm PT
“The tourists snapping photos and the climbers scaling the walls are all part of a long history that has drained the power out of the Tower,” Milo [Yellow Hair] said.

"We don't want people climbing here at all," [Looking Horse] says.

So there you have it. If the Alpinist reflects the true voice of local Native Americans, there should be NO climbing of Bear Lodge (AKA Devils Tower). That it’s allowed 11 of 12 months is a compromise heavily in favor “of the American climbing community … largely … white, relatively well-off, and male.”

I found this of interest from the Alpinist article:
“The plan also created mandatory closures to preserve raptor habitat, and a voluntary climbing closure during the month of June to promote respect between climbers, Indigenous groups, and the park service.” (Emphasis supplied.)

May I speculate that the act of climbing on the rock isn’t, for the majority of natives, the “problem.” Rather, this closure is a tangible stamp of “We exist, we matter.” Unfortunately, climbers are the easiest vehicle by which to make the statement. The park service isn’t going to accept a ban on car and foot travel (which the article points out is an understandably huge problem for some natives), since that would drastically plunge tourism and take away revenue and park service jobs. Guides have a financial stake, and they indeed approached the courts and had their ban thrown out. Climbers, however, have no advocate sufficient to protect their interests.
Jon Beck

Trad climber
Jul 7, 2017 - 06:42pm PT
Rather, this closure is a tangible stamp of “We exist, we matter.”

So true, and this is seen in many aspects of reservation law and politics. I experienced this first hand in a child custody dispute in a tribal court. An ugly side of indian law.

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jul 7, 2017 - 09:31pm PT
Indians and their peaks is a touchy subject. They rolled big rocks down the gully two friends of mine were using to climb out of Canon de Chelly after doing Spider Rock. They take that place seriously.

For some reason, they loved BASE jumpers, and treated us very well. We hired a guide every day, because no white person can go in there without a guide. It wasn't much split 4 ways, and damn worth it, because it is better than any site around Moab.

They don't like climbers on the Navajo res, but they like BASE jumpers. Go figure. I have a great story about that that I may tell later.

There are forbidden peaks around the world. At least one that I know of in Nepal. Their Gods live in these places. Climbing them is like pissing on them and calling it rain.

I don't care what the legal status is, but if the ELDERS want it unclimbed for a month, I would defer to them out of simple kindness. It isn't like there isn't another rock in Wyoming.

The biggest theft was the Black Hills, though, as I said above.

I'm with the natives. Give them their dignity, even if it seems small and incoherent to our white ears.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jul 7, 2017 - 10:27pm PT
Ethnographic Overview and Assessment of Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming

NAGPRA Consultation and the National Park Service

"The dilema for the National Park Service is how to best resolve the resulting conflicts betwen climbers who view DevilsTower as a public resource that they can use as they see fit, and the American Indians who view Devils Tower as a sacred site and place of religious power and spirituality."

4 Corners Area
Jul 8, 2017 - 08:13am PT
The term "ban" should not be used if it is voluntary.

It would be better to refer to this as an agreement. This is something the climbing community agreed to.

Now, of course, the "climbing community" is not of one mind on this subject. However it would be useful to keep in mind that we will generally be judged as one.

It really doesn't seem like too much to ask. It seems like observing the June closure is just a respectful thing to do. It would be great if we could self-regulate and not always need a government "mandate" or "law", to force us to behave in a civilized manner.

That is one thing I've always liked about the "climbing community" our ability set and enforce our own limits without the help of authoritarian intervention. The whole significance of this June closure, to me, is that it is voluntary. It is not forced or mandated by the government or any other authority - we made a voluntary agreement.

Think of it in terms freedom. Better to live up to a voluntary agreement, than to be forced, mandated, ordered, or legislated into respectful behavior.

Let's show them that climbers are perfectly capable of self regulating and that we do not need controls imposed on us from outside our own community.

Trad climber
Atlanta, GA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 9, 2017 - 12:18pm PT
Hi Folks,

Now that June 2017 has passed I wanted to give an update about the June closure statistics. This year there were 297 climbers in June compared to 373 last year. This is about a 21% reduction in climbers from last June. It remains to be seen how the rest of the year goes to determine the number of climbers in June as a percent of annual, but I'm guessing that number will also be lower.

Big Wall climber
Jul 9, 2017 - 12:57pm PT
You want to "solve" this ginned-up, fake controversy?

Make your "voluntary closure" for native ceremonies in any month Nov-March.

As a side note, who is this "we" that people are saying "agreed"? I didn't agree to any of that, I certainly didn't cede my decision making to the Access Fund, and I know the guys who put food on their table during the prime guiding working season didn't "agree" to this nonsense either. It is voluntary because they can't legally enforce it.

Grizzlyville, WY
Jul 9, 2017 - 04:07pm PT
What was the breakdown of guided vs. recreational?


Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Jul 10, 2017 - 06:57am PT
I've volunteered so far....

Frank bought the pine ridge clinic a kidney machine by climbing in June. Now that's respect!

Trad climber
Atlanta, GA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 16, 2017 - 10:19am PT
What was the breakdown of guided vs. recreational?


Guided percentage this year in June was about 30 percent, compared to about 40% from last year.

mike m

Trad climber
black hills
Jul 26, 2017 - 06:23pm PT
So funny read an article by a boulder climber whole heartedly supporting not climbing. I can see the headline now pretentious boulder climbers offer cerimonial sacrificial lamb of a climbing area in another state. Meanwhile in boulder canyon dozens of bolts are poured into previously established trad routes. Guidebook says it is bad but goes on to say classic sport route bring 14 draws for the 50 ft 3 pitch route.
steve s

Trad climber
Jul 26, 2017 - 08:16pm PT
Pretty funny Mike M . You forgot to add trustfunders to the pretentious Boulder climber part. Not only are they adding bolts to established trad routes in Boulder canyon, they are also adding bolts to adequately bolted sport routes too. Cheers.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jul 26, 2017 - 10:07pm PT
Ahhh...Boulder Bashing, the quintissential ST sport. Sure, it's whitebread and expensive but for a town that provides job opportunities, climbing access and partner availability, nowhere else comes close.
Jon Beck

Trad climber
Jul 26, 2017 - 10:39pm PT
I don't think it was a Boulder bash, seemed like a dig at bolters who happen to live there, and are "sacrificing" by not going to a place they do not go to. Boulder is a great climbing town

Gym climber
Jul 27, 2017 - 09:40am PT
Pretty funny Mike M . You forgot to add trustfunders to the pretentious Boulder climber part. Not only are they adding bolts to established trad routes in Boulder canyon, they are also adding bolts to adequately bolted sport routes too. Cheers

Hee haw!!! Boulder Trustfunders--that's some cutting edge humor!
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
Jul 27, 2017 - 03:08pm PT
Hey I live in boulder and like the place a lot, but find myself missing the Black Hills more and more. What you miss in salary may be close to made up for in relatively cheap housing. Also rock climbing access is as good or better for cragging routes, mountainbiking is way better, ice climbing isn't any worse, its just that the skiing sucks and it is a whole two hours to big mountains and walls. Hmmmmm
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