July 30, Sunday
Last night, Tom discovered the Bear Paw Battlefield – a National Historical Park in Montana – just 15 miles off of our route home! Two years ago we had visited the Nez Perce Big Meadow Battlefield in Idaho, and had become fascinated with the story of the Nez Perce. This Battlefield is the location where the sad story ended. We just had to stop!
As a part of the US western expansion, and the attempt of the Government to clear the land of native peoples, a portion of the Nez Perce nation fled from their native land in Idaho. They were on the run for 4 months and 1,500 miles, and as a last bid for freedom headed for Canada. Eight hundred got within 40 miles of the border, planning a resupply camp where several buffalo had been killed and water and grass for the 3,000 ponies was plentiful. They were low on supplies, the ponies were played out, and their blankets were thread-bear – it snowed. On September 29, 1877, they were attacked by Soldiers, and after a day of fighting they took defensive position and were held in siege for 5 days.
There is much more to the story, and I suggest the book The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story by Elliott West for all the brutal details. Tom and I are listening to it on audio book as we drive along, and it is written in fascinating text.
The Bear Paw Battlefield is mapped out as a self-guided tour, but it was our luck to have a very knowledgable ranger accompany us with a running narration of details. We walked along the trail that was cut through the rolling Montana grassland -- in temperatures above 90 degrees.
Several years after the battle, Nez Perce who were eye witnesses returned to mark the location of events on the field, making it a well-documented theater. Today, people leave small tributes at the markers.
The artist who painted these sign posts, depicted the Nez Perce in correct detail with their striped blankets and teepees made without the customary tall lodge poles.
These pictures of the battlefield show that there was high ground -- and low ground, and everything was out in the open.
The 6-day battle/siege ended with the very moving and very famous surrender by Chief Joseph: "From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more, forever."
We got that far in the tour, and with the Airstream within sight -- Tom sat down. I took his picture. He tried to get up, and he sat down again -- hard. I grabbed his hand, and he leaned back on a rock, and then laid down on the ground -- flat -- saying he felt a little woozy! Minutes later he said he was better and sat up -- minutes later he was "fine." Even though he walked with no problem to the truck, I took the keys from his hand and had him relax in the AC for 2 hours. Heaven knows I don't get the opportunity to take the wheel very often! Here is the picture of him sitting -- and me driving!
A time change, a long day's drive (450 miles), and the lengthy tour stop all combined to find us still on the road at 7:30 in the middle of nowhere on undeveloped Route 2, with no camping prospects for the next 58 miles! Tonight's campground is a Ramada Inn!
We don’t go camping any more . . . we go ‘streamin’ ! The “SIlvermine and His” is our 2016 23' Airstream, and ‘streamin’ is the name we use to describe our adventures. Stream along as we document everything from weekend trips to longer summer excursions and full-blown vacations. You know what they say: if you’re not in an Airstream – you’re just camping!
Tom & Ella Brown