For years, I drove through a tunnel on the southern end of Lake Tahoe, Cave Rock, the Washoe’s De’ek Wadapush, unaware of its history and cultural significance to our native peoples. A highway was provided for us to drive through and I never gave it a second thought. The Washoe protested as holes were bored and the road was laid through the sacred cave in 1931 and again in the 1950’s.
The Lady of the Lake’s face can be clearly seen from the waters of Lake Tahoe. She gazes north, watching over the lake and the Me’tsunge, Waterbabies, who, according to Washoe legend, created the rivers, lakes, and streams in the area. De’ek Wadapush is believed to be the gathering place for the Me’tsunge who impart their power and knowledge onto shaman seeking their guidance. Summer months for the Damomliw included travel to De’ek Wadapush for ceremony and ritual. Communication with the Me’tsunge is believed to be essential for balance and medicine within the population and earth itself.
During the 1980’s, rock climbers, seeking challenging climbing routes, unknowingly defaced the cave’s granite with their climbing gear. Tribal culture and traditions were ignored. The Washoe again protested the loss of their sacred cave and demanded respect. The United States Court of Appeals sided with the Forest Service who sought cultural identity for the Washoe. Climbing of De’ek Wadapush was banned in 2007 in order to preserve this cultural site for the Washoe and bring some relief to the desecration.
This 75 feet of solid granite has been nominated for the National Register of Historic Places with a designation of “Traditonal Cultural Property”. For the Washoe, De’ek Wadapush is a sacred place for spiritual renewal with centuries of cultural tradition. After many years of battle, restoration for the Lady of the Lake is underway.