If you’ve ever driven through Nevada on I-80, then you’ve passed by Thunder Mountain Monument, and chances are you’ve wondered to yourself or outloud “what the hell is that thing?!” (I know I for sure did, hence why we stopped there in the first place)
At first glance it looks like a colossal tower of concrete and garbage left on the side of the highway…and it turns out, that’s exactly what it is. But behind all the garbage, is a message that is overwhelmingly powerful.
130 miles northeast of Reno is the small town of Imlay. It is here that Frank Van Zant, also known as Chief Rolling Thunder, spent the final years of his life building a monument dedicated to the suffering of the American Indians. This monument also served as his home and a safe haven for hippies in the 60’s & 70’s. The monument is a reminder of the price paid by the native people of this country, in the name of “Manifest Destiny”. Many men, just like in the days of the crusades, justified the slavery and murder of other human beings in the name of God and Christianity.
Scattered across the monument grounds are over 200 sculptures, to serve as reminders of this shameful and ignorant past, in hopes that history won’t repeat itself. You will witness the misery on the chiefs’ faces, frozen in time, as they watch their people get slaughtered by soldiers. The monument was made entirely by hand, out of wood, and “white man’s trash”, all found within a 50 mile radius. The only material bought for the project, was concrete.
Native Americans never let anything go to waste, they utilized everything that the earth provided for them. Modern western civilization on the other hand, does the exact opposite. The monument makes a painfully obvious, and crucial ecological statement – we are polluting this planet with “trash”. Trash, that will remain on this planet long after you and I have passed away. After Frank’s wife left him alone – taking their three children with her. On top of falling ill due to a smoking habit, he became severely depressed and eventually committed suicide in the roundhouse. Chief Rolling Thunder left Thunder Mountain Monument to his son, who is now the caretaker.
Keep an eye open the next time you’re on the road through Nevada, you definitely do not want to miss out on a self guided tour through Thunder Mountain. Maintenance of the monument relies solely on donations from the public, so please be generous. 🙂
It’s so important that we keep places like this around for future generations to enjoy and reflect upon.
Visit the Thunder Mountain Monument website for more info!