Saturday, August 6, 2011

Over the Bitterroot Mountains

As the Missouri River became unnavigable, Louis and Clark kept pressing westward and were seriously in need of horses to continue their quest. As they came upon this upthrust of limestone, Sacagawea, who had been captured from her tribe as a child, recognized it from her childhood as part of the land of the Shoshone tribe. They pressed on towards the Bitterroot Mountains, seen here.
Coming upon some warriors, Louis and Clark entered into negotiations for horses and brought Sacagawea forward to help translate. When Sacagawea recognized the current tribal chief as none other than her own brother, a happy reunion occurred. Needless to say, they got their horses.

Later, not all relationships with tribes were as easy. Originally, the Nez Perce tribe was given a large swath of land as a reservation. After gold was discovered, we reduced that area by 90% and attempted to confine this proud nation to one small corner. One thing led to another and in August 1877, the Nez Perce people were attacked at dawn by US Calvary troops and civilian volunteers. Ninety men, women and children of the Nez Perce perished. Chief Joseph rallied his warriors, killing 28 soldiers and seriously wounding many others. The Big Hole Battlefield, seen above commemorates this event with an informative visitors center and preserved battleground.

We stayed the night nearby at May Creek, a US National Forest campground. In the evening, a talk given by Nez Perce elders at the campfire ring held us spellbound. For three hours, we soaked up the stories and wisdom of North Star, a Nez Perce elder, three generations removed from this tragic battle. It was awesome . . .

On Sept 4, 1805, Louis and Clark descended, cold and wet, from the snow covered mountains into this wide valley, where over 400 of the Salish tribe were encamped.
They greeted The Expedition warmly, sharing food and clothing from their own, limited stores. The Salish also provided important information about the terrain that would be encountered in the treacherous mountains to the west.

To be continued . . .

1 comment:

Happy Trails said...

Pete, just had to let you know how good your photography has become! Your perspective of the Nez Perce elder was wonderful! The fire ring in the foreground enhanced the image!
The stories you tell are so interesting! Thank you for your blog!