Native Americans' sacred Tamanowas Rock desecrated with an 'I ♥' tag

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

CHIMACUM — A display of affection has marred one of the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe's most sacred sites.

Late last month, tribal officials learned someone had painted the message “I ♥ Miranda” in pink and white on Tamanowas Rock, the 43-million-year-old monolith used for millennia by Salish Native Americans for hunting, refuge and rituals of spiritual renewal.

In the Klallam language, Tamanowas means “spirit power.”

“It's an incredibly important site for us,” said Anette Nesse, chief operating officer for the tribe in Blyn.

“That's why we worked so hard to acquire it.”

The Jamestown S'Klallam tribe purchased the rock and 62 surrounding acres from the Jefferson Land Trust for $600,000 last December.

Standing more than 150 feet tall east of Anderson Lake State Park, the rock, actually made up of a pair of basalt masses that shoot up through a dense forest, offers sweeping vistas of Admiralty Inlet, Whidbey Island and the Cascades.

It has been a favorite spot for area rock climbers.

“That's kind of a perpetual problem,” Nesse said, “along with folks going up there and picnicking and leaving behind campfire remnants.”

And now a graffito.

The “I ♥ Miranda” tag also was painted on the Uptown Theatre in Port Townsend last month.

“I don't know who Miranda is,” Nesse said. “She must mean a lot to somebody, but painting it on the rock is definitely not the best way to express it.”

Nesse and Bill Laubner, manager of the tribe's facilities, are now working to determine the best way to remove the graffiti without damaging the rock.

“We've got to find something strong enough to remove the paint but gentle enough so it doesn't hurt the rock,” Nesse said.

They reported the damage to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office but have not heard anything from an investigation.

“Not that I think it was anything malicious,” Nesse said. “I just think whoever painted that didn't realize how important the rock is to us.”

Tamanowas Rock, aka Chimacum Rock, was listed on the Washington Heritage Register in 1976, and the tribe is currently seeking to have it added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The land trust had bought the property from Washington State Parks, which bought it from developer George Heidgerkin.

Heidgerkin purchased the property in 1993 with plans to build as many as 46 homes around the Tamanowas Rock.

The rock, believed to have formed from molten lava 43 million years ago, was used as a lookout for mastodon hunters, according to tribal spokeswoman Betty Oppenheimer.

Caves formed from gas bubbles during the rock's development were used for spiritual vision quests, in which tribal members spent three days fasting at the rock before hiking for a cleansing bath in Anderson Lake.

A pair of gates off Anderson Lake Road provide access to the maze of trails that weave through the property and connect to Anderson Lake State Park, though it is outside the park's boundaries.

“At this point, we're not intending to cut off public access; we're trying to improve access and educate people about the importance of the rock,” Nesse said.

Interpretive signs explaining the rock's significance are in the works, as is an improved parking area.

Signs by the gates warn hikers about the uses the tribe does not want to see on the site, including motor biking, campfires and, especially, rock climbing.

“Folks are welcome to enjoy passive recreation there — walking, hiking, birdwatching, that type of thing,” Nesse said.

“But the rock climbing has done a lot of damage over the years.”

Nesse asked those who see people doing those unauthorized activities at the site to report it to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office at 360-385-3831 or the tribe, based at 1033 Old Blyn Highway east of Sequim, at 360-683-1109.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 02. 2014 6:04PM
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