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Climbing on Sacred Land: Understanding and Respecting Indigenous Culture

Photo: Petroglyphs, Valley of Fire

Notes from the April 27, 2021 conversation Climbing on Sacred Land: Understanding and Respecting Indigenous Culture

Key links
Webinar recording


  • Will the video be available later for on-demand viewing?
  • Is anyone reporting or tweeting about the presentations?
  • What sort of climbing are we advocating?
  • How can we do a better job of manifesting tourism – including climbing – that is managed and developed by Indigenous allies – the guides, the providers of accommodation and transportation, the cooks and farmers, artisans, and educators? Are we listening to their concerns and interests?
  • What are examples of good practice?
  • What are the names in Indigenous languages of these places?
  • What are land acknowledgements?
  • How do we stop the vandalism?

– Angelo Baca, Utah Diné Bikéyah, Cultural Resources Coordinator (@UtahDineBikeyah)
– Richard Gilbert, Retired U.S. Marine and Climber
– Skye Kolealani Razon-Olds, Kanaka Climbers Founder and Director
Ashleigh Thompson, Indigenous Archaeology/American Indian Studies, University of Arizona (@ashanishinaabe)
– Chris Schulte, Friends of Indian Creek Board Member and Professional Climber

– Chris Winter, Access Fund, Executive Director


Petroglyphs and other cultural resources are not only a window into the past, but an ongoing and vital part of Indigenous culture and identity. Indigenous people have cared for the land since time immemorial and continue to do so to this day.

When Richard Gilbert bolted a new route at Sunshine Wall, north of Moab, he said he did not realize that he was compromising prehistoric petroglyphs. Nor did he realize the level of outrage and vitriol his actions would generate from the climbing community.

Access Fund unequivocally condemns the desecration of cultural resources and sacred sites. However, respecting Indigenous culture is more complex than the protection of a physical space with cultural significance. Understanding contemporary Indigenous identity, the intrinsic connection between Native peoples and America’s public lands, and the value of Indigenous sacred sites is fundamental to developing a holistic respect for Indigenous culture.

The panelists will discuss practical ways to ensure that climbers do not harm the vast cultural legacy of sacred land.

Embedded Tweets

The Impossibility of Ethical Recreation on Stolen Land – New Republic
Ancient petroglyphs damaged by climber in Utah
Coloradan Called Out for Bolting Over Petroglyphs – Outside
Petroglyph Bolter Apologizes, Receives Death Threats – Climbing

Indian Land Tenure Foundation



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