It was a simple ask by Australia’s Aboriginal people.
“We, the traditional Anangu owners, have this to say. Uluru is sacred in our culture, a place of great knowledge. Under our traditional law, climbing is not permitted. This is our home. Please don’t climb.”
Thus said a sign at the base of Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock. Yet, 60,000 people a year ignored the request and climbed the rock anyway. Now Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which is jointly managed by the federal government and Aboriginal people, has formally closed the site to climbing.
“It is an extremely important place, not a playground or theme park like Disneyland,” said national park board chairman Sammy Wilson, who is Anangu. “If I travel to another country and there is a sacred site, an area of restricted access, I don’t enter or climb it, I respect it.
“Closing the climb is not something to feel upset about but a cause for celebration. Let’s come together; let’s close it together.”
The United States has faced a similar situation at Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. In the mid-1990s, monument officials asked climbers not to scale the 900-foot rock formation in June out of respect for 20-plus local tribes, which meet at the tower during the month and perform their sun dance and sweat lodge rituals. Climbing dropped by about 80 percent, from 1,200 to 167. Since then, though, the number of people on the rock in June has more than doubled.
Tim Reid, Superintendent of Devils Tower National Monument, told Wyoming Public Radio, “In the last five years, there’s been a steady incremental increase in the number of climbers in June that is not connected to just the steady overall increase of visitation at the monument.
“Largely, the bulk of June climbing is done by relatively local or regional climbers, who for whatever reason find it personally acceptable to climb in June.”
Maybe the feds should consider changing the name from Devils Tower to what the locals actually named the rock: Bear Lodge or Bear’s House. In 1985, the title to Ayers Rock was given to the Aboriginal people, who leased it back to the Australian government for the national park. In 1993, the name was changed to Ayers Rock/Uluru and in 2002 was renamed Uluru/Ayers Rock.
Photo by Pete Edgeler
For more on the Devils Tower ban, read Why We Should Abide the Devils Tower Voluntary Climbing Ban by AJ contributor Chris Kalman