Frank Sanders, owner of Devils Tower Lodge in Wyoming, decided to climb Devils Tower every day for a year. He called his attempt “Project 365”, and except for five days (due to a back injury), he made it to the top of the Wyoming landmark. Frank wasn’t just climbing to test his own limits or prove that it could be done. Instead, he climbed every day of his 57th year to bring attention to what he calls the “Third World conditions” on Native American reservations. (Read more about it on his website here.)
Because Devils Tower is considered sacred to local tribes, the monument has imposed a voluntary climbing ban during the month of June. On his website, Frank expresses that he is in full support of anyone wanting to worship or observe the sacred nature of the place. However, he did not observe the climbing ban, on the platform that the Tower is sacred to people beyond the local tribes. Instead of railing against the restrictions by claiming that access to federally managed lands should not be governed or affected by religious or cultural background, Frank is instead taking the stance that climbing the Tower and revering it are not mutually exclusive perspectives. Not only is this a refreshing view in the ongoing debate, this is a great example of how the space can be shared; it’s an example that should be kept in mind, as there are lots of areas around the world that are revered by climbers and mountaineers as well as indigenous peoples.
Congratulations and my respect to Frank for his climbing achievement and the difference that he’s making on Wyoming reservations through it!