09 April 2007
Big Hole Battlefield: save our history
The Big Hole Battlefield near Wisdom, Montana, is a special place. It commemorates a historic battle -- 09.August.1877 -- when the US Army attacked and were defeated by a band of Nez Perce Indians. The Nez Perce were fleeing Idaho for Canada after a series of broke treaties, expropriated tribal lands, and incursions on the reservation by white gold miners. The US Army was out to avenge Custer's defeat by making an example of the Nez Perce. Though a sound military victory, the battle was terrible for the Nez Perce with nearly 100 (mainly women and children) killed.
Photo below: Nez Perce empty saddle ceremony (National Park Service photo)
Racine Tucker Hamilton wrote to let me know that today "a very different battle is being fought at Big Hole... the enemy is insufficient funding..."
In a report released by the Natonal Parks Cosnervation Association (see http://www.ncpa.org/stateoftheparks/big_hole/), the organization reports that the park's staff need additional funding for historical research, exhibit and collection maintenance, and landscape management. [Photo at left below is a Blue Camas flower; this plant grows in abundance in the upper Big Hole River basin, and its root was an important food for the Nez Perce (photo by Linda Rogers, published in my book Montana's Last Best River: The Big Hole and its People; illustration on right below is of a painting by George Catlin.]
America's National Park System is seriously underfunded. You can help preserve our connection to history and nature by signing NCPA's petition to "Make National Parks A National Priority" at http://ga1.org/campaign/nationalpriority and by sending a letter to NCPA's "Network to Freedom" at http://ga1.org/campaign/Network_to_Freedom. [Photos below from Smithsonian: on left is Chief Joseph, one of several Nez Perce leaders; on right is Colonel Gibbon, who led the US Army attack at this battle.]
The Big Hole Battlefield is a remarkable landscape--one of the few places along the Lewis & Clark trail that still looks much as it did two centuries ago, and much as it did when the Nez Perce roamed freely under Montana's Big Sky. There is excellent fishing, hunting, backpacking, and hunting in the area.
Visited the Battlefield--perhaps for the 130th anniversary commemoration on 10 August 2007. [Below is NPS map.]