NEZ PERCE SAD TALE AT BIG HOLE
The wind was biting and the snow was beginning to fall, but my wife and I journeyed on, determined to arrive at the sleeping camp of the Nez Perce to see and feel the sorrow that happened here, so many years ago. It was Memorial Day and quite appropriate to have walked the ground where Chief Joseph, other Chiefs and the people of the Nez Perce were surprised while sleeping by the U S Army with cannon fire on their camp.
It was August 9, 1877 when gun shots rang out and started to cut down the sleeping camp of the Nez Perce. Big Hole would leave a big hole in Chief Joseph's heart as he watched his people being attacked. Close to 90 Nez Perce were killed, men, women and children and the U S Army lost 31 soldiers and volunteers on that fateful day. Today it is regarded at a memorial to the fallen and many of the remaining Nez Perce travel to the Montana Battlefields, including Big Hole, to honor those that fought and died during the conflict of 1877. The Big Hole National Battlefield was created to honor all who were there.
In the summer of 1877, Chief Joseph refused to live in a reservation demanded by the meeting with the U S Army in Oregon and tried to get his people to Canada and freedom. Besides the Big Hole surprise by the U S Army, there were many battles with the pursuing U S Army , but it all came to an end at Bear Paw, just 40 miles short of Canada. On October 5th, 1877, after five days of siege and battle, Chief Joseph gave his immortal speech: “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”
As my wife and I left the Big Hole Battlefield, a light rain began to fall as if tears from the heavens. We both felt the emotional churn that was caused by the tragedy that occurred on August 9, 1877. The entire Nez Perce Trail was a tragic tale. We cannot redo the past but only learn from it and not repeat it. I had purchased a book at the visitors center on the life of Chief Joseph and before getting in my car to leave, I opened up the book. As I did, a single snowflake landed on the page. The snowflake, white and pure, seemed like the message of the words from Chief Joseph. Hopefully one day for the entire world, Chief Joseph's words may come true; "I will fight no more forever."