Devils Tower: Our First National Monument

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    Some people probably haven’t heard of Devils Tower. It’s located in the Bearlodge Ranger District of the Black Hills, Wyoming. “Devils Tower” is an imposing name, and you might be wondering how it came to be. In an 1875 expedition an interpreter accidentally thought an American Indian called it “Bad God’s Tower.” Since the expeditioners’ report was written in the history books, the name has been Devils Tower ever since that day. One may ask why it wasn’t called “Devil’s Tower.” In reality, Devils Tower was supposed to have an apostrophe, but the proclamation of it being a national monument had a typo that hasn’t been fixed to this day. President Theodore Roosevelt named Devils Tower the first national monument in the United States in 1906, improper punctuation and all. The history of the igneous rock formation has been riddled with miscommunication and misspellings. As far as rock formations go, Devils Tower is a very popular rock climbing and hiking site. Obviously the name hasn’t stopped anyone from taking the opportunity to climb; there are over 150 established routes to scale the rock by!

 

     Climbing Devils Tower isn’t just a tourist attraction; it also serves a religious purpose to over two dozen American Indian tribes (such as the Lakota, Cheyenne, Crow, Arapahoe, Shoshone, and Kiowa). Every June there is a rock climbing closure, and offerings of cloth bundles are made around the base of Devils Tower. Visitors are advised not to disturb or remove the prayer cloths for their religious significance. One of the tribes most affiliated with Devils Tower are the Lakota. They go there to perform healing and sweat lodge ceremonies, to Sun Dance, fast, pray, and leave offerings. Legend says the Lakota received their most sacred object there, the White Buffalo Calf Pipe, through White Buffalo Calf Woman (a spiritual being). Battles were won at Devils Tower, and American Indians still go there for “vision quests,” or a search for their identities. Among other things, Devils Tower is thought to be the birthplace of wisdom. The next time you’re planning a visit to Wyoming, be sure to check out this National Monument!

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