Traditional Washoe Tribe structure destroyed at Lake Tahoe
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — From traditional dances to creating bows and arrows for museums, Ben Rupert enjoys sharing his Washoe Tribe heritage with the Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley regions.
Last fall, he began constructing a “galis dungal,” a Washoe winter dwelling, for the Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau, located at 969 Tahoe Blvd. (Highway 28) in Incline Village.
A galis dungal is similar to a tepee and is made from cedar bark. After going through the permit process to secure a tree, Ben said it takes three to four months for the wood to cure.
He has donated his time and labor to build this same structure in other locations across the Tahoe-Truckee region, including D. L. Bliss State Park, Meeks Bay, Tahoe Vista and Donner Memorial State Park.
What he didn’t expect was for the galis dungal in Incline Village to be vandalized — twice.
“We had put up the frame, and somebody came in and completely knocked the frame down,” Rupert said regarding the first apparent vandalism incident.
He and his son, John Rupert, put the poles back in place and continued the construction process.
On Friday, Feb. 9, Ben and John spent six hours putting cedar bark around the frame and securing the structure with boulders around the bottom.
That same weekend, Greg Long, operations and finance director for the visitors bureau, had to call Ben to tell him the structure had been destroyed overnight on Saturday, Feb. 10.
“You can’t push it over. It’s really sturdy with the bark. The wind couldn’t have knocked it over,” said Long.
He believes this structure is important for the community and wants it to be rebuilt. Long said some community members have offered to loan their video cameras to the visitor center for surveillance.
Ben is still undecided, though, on whether he’s willing to rebuild the galis dungal in the same location.
“The most disappointing part about it is we don’t charge for it, and we put all this time into something to share the Washoe culture,” he said. “It’s disheartening if there’s someone who doesn’t want it there.”
The Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau filed an incident report with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office after the second vandalism.
The sheriff’s office is currently investigating the incident, but as of Feb. 22, the department did not have any leads.
“It’s a tribute to the heritage and the region, and it’s unfortunate that someone would be so thoughtless to do something like that,” said Bob Harmon, WCSO public information officer.
In an effort led by Long, a small group came together to clean up the destroyed galis dungal on Saturday, Feb. 17.
“Some community members offered their help on Facebook, so I met some of them on (Feb. 17), and we neatly restacked the bark and poles so Ben wouldn’t have to see it like that,” said Long.
As for whether or not Ben will rebuild the galis dungal, the Carson City resident said he would like some form of assurance that the structure will not be destroyed a third time.
“One individual or a group of individuals is causing the heartache for everybody,” said Ben. “If we put it up again … what’s to say it won’t get knocked down again?”
Emily Kaiser is an editor with the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a media organization within the Sierra Nevada Media Group, which publishes First Nation’s Focus.
With the Nevada Indian Commission’s offices located on the Stewart Indian School campus, Stacey Montooth is reminded every day of the culture and lands she is working to preserve and the welfare of her people she is striving to improve.