Hueco was one of the first climbing areas to fall victim to the prejudice of "we (the tribe) don't want you to go there; it is sacred to us, but not to you." Now, people who want to climb at Lake Tahoe's Cave Rock are the current victims of Indian mysticism. You can find articles about the closure on the Access Fund's website and in Climbing and Rock and Ice magazines from late 2002 to summer 2003.

The following beautiful letter appeared in the July/August 2003 issue of Rock and Ice. It says it better than I can. I am always amazed and gratified when I find rational, logical people who understand fundamental principles of freedom and equality. Unfortunately, we are vastly outnumbered by legions of rule-loving sycophants who never saw a regulation they didn't like and will never have the courage to stand up and say, "Um... I'm sorry to break this to you, but the rock really is not alive, and animism is a false belief. By the way, it's sexist to not allow women to vote in your tribal elections, and it's racist to base membership in the tribe on a person's percentage of 'pure Indian blood' ."

Today I went rock climbing at Cave Rock, located on the shores of Lake Tahoe. The same Cave Rock that is located on National Forest Service land. The very same Cave Rock that is located on public land. However, today it was brought to my attention that this might be one of the last times I'm allowed to climb there. Why? Because I'm a woman, and my very presence in the cave is disturbing to a group of people...the Washoe Indians, who see my climbing there as a desecration of a sacred place, a religious place, a place where women weren't traditionally permitted. Of course the Forest Service couldn't merely put up a sign that says, "NO GIRLS ALLOWED", because this is America and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination as blatant and outrageous as this.

So instead, the Forest Service proposes that in order to appease the religious beliefs of the Washoe Indians, they must close Cave Rock to all climbers. But wait, since when did the Forest Service have jurisdiction to determine what public areas should be closed to aid in the practicing of a specific religion. Isn't this the land of the free? To me climbing is a religion, and if I'm on public land I should be allowed to wear a cross, say a prayer, or climb a rock. But once again, the Forest Service realizes this. They know they can't close Cave Rock to climbing because of religious beliefs, so instead they hide behind the guise that this closure is to preserve a historical site. This being the same historical site that apparently and miraculously was undisturbed by the blasting that was necessary to create the highway tunnels. This being the same historical site where there is absolutely no historical indication that the Washoe Tribe previously prohibited the presence of others (men) in the area.

So, as I sat overlooking Lake Tahoe, or rather as I sat desecrating a sacred place, I couldn't help but wonder why it is that in times when the world seems to be getting smaller, and the need to share and come together as a unified country becomes greater, the Forest Service can't support a compromise that would allow all of us to practice our religion at Cave Rock. Then I remembered why-because I am a woman.

I urge the Forest Service to please take these thoughts to heart and stop the discrimination and inappropriate closure of public lands to rock climbers.


Melanie Rives

At, we make every effort to not classify people and to treat everyone as an individual. Of course, there are some classifications that are unavoidable, such as "human" or "female". Even in those cases, we try very hard to avoid all false stereotypes, or infer from someone's membership in a class that they posses certain characteristics. A classic example, one that can be found in most old movies and TV shows, is the depiction of women as helpless, screaming ninnies in the face of danger.

Therefore, it is with the utmost reluctance that we even have a menu item titled "Indians". The only reason we do is because of the efforts of many tribal members to ban or heavily restrict non-Indians from climbing on public land.

Some Indians have been a major source of access problems at Hueco since the early 80's. The official tribal spokesmen have been openly racist and sexist in conversations with me. Having said that, we know that not all tribal members agree with the elders; many Indians have no problem with climbers at Hueco or with women members voting in tribal elections. Unfortunately, theirs' is a minority opinion among Indians.

According to an article in the El Paso Times dated 1.4.2004, the Tigua tribe re-elected tribal Governor Art Senclair and the Tigua Council to office in a recent election.The article mentioned something else that many people are unaware of - the Tiguas (and many other tribes) do not allow women to vote. This mysogynous, oppressive and inexcusable behavior is tolerated and justified because it is "part of their culture" and they are a "sovereign nation".

The entire concept that one must have a certain percentage of "Indian blood" to qualify for membership in a tribe is, by definition, racism. Yes, it is the Law and officially sanctioned by the US government, but that does not make it right nor make it anything less than racism. Over the years, as Indians have done what comes naturally, i.e. fall in love, marry and have children - surprise, surprise - they have produced offspring that is not 100% "pureblooded". (By the way, that is actually a very good thing. It is only by interbreeding that we can fully eliminate racism, and my kid is a good example: she is 1/4 German, 1/4 Mexican, 1/4 Norwegian and 1/4 Isle of Mann.) So, now that the racial purity of modern Indians has become diluted, some Indians are in a panic, and had to recently reduce the percentage of "Indian" blood required for tribal membership to 1/32 (soon to be 1/64). Talk about crazy - the tribes should just drop the racist bit and let anyone become an Indian, as long as they believe in the Indian religion and pass some kind of test, kinda like our citizenship requirements. Of course, the tribes will never do this, 'cause it would undermine their unjustifiable belief that sacredness comes from ancestors. It would also derail the lucrative racket they have going with casinos under the disingenuous ruse of the "sovereign nation" theory.

Fortunately, the Tigua Plan for Hueco was pretty much DOA in 1997 and no one is talking about it any more. We present it here for historical reference.