INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — From traditional dances to creating bows and arrows for museums, Ben Ruppert enjoys sharing his Washoe heritage with the 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. He has donated his time and labor to build this same structure in other locations, 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," said Ben.
Ben and his son, John Ruppert, put the poles back in place and continued the construction process.
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.
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 visitors 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. It's disheartening if there's someone who doesn't want it there," said Ben.
The Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau filed a police report with the Washoe County Sheriff's Office after the second vandalism.
The sheriff's office is currently investigating the incident, but at this time, they do not have any leads on the case.
"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, public information office for the sheriff's office.
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 Saturday, 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 this weekend, what's to say it won't get knocked down again?"