Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Lake Tahoe's Cave Rock court case inspires book about sacred place

A precedent-setting court case concerning a Lake Tahoe landmark so intrigued author Michael Makley that he teamed with his historian son Matthew to write about it. The result, "Cave Rock: Climbers, Courts, and a Washoe Indian Sacred Place," (University of Nevada Press, $24.95 paperback) examines the court cases involved in the Washoe tribe's successful attempt to ban rock climbing at the South Shore site. It explains the vigorous arguments presented by the tribe, which considers the site a sacred and powerful place, and by the climbers, who had their own attachments to Cave Rock, ranging from a challenging place to climb to a place of spiritual serenity. After two decades of debate and legal decisions, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling to ban rock climbing and other invasive activity at Cave Rock in 2007, based on its cultural, rather than religious, importance to the tribe. It was an outcome seldom experienced by American Indians in court. For the rock climbers, Cave Rock was a world-class site. Many also spoke of the spiritual nature of the place. Opponents of the climbing ban noted that tunnels built through Cave Rock for U.S. 50 already had left significant impact on the rock as had years of public use. For the Washoe, Cave Rock represented generations of tribal shamans or doctors using the site as a place of spiritual power. For some Washoe, Makley said, Cave Rock is so sacred, they'll drive all the way around Lake Tahoe to avoid driving through the rock's highway tunnels...more