The Hawthornes left Cody, Wyoming to go explore the West side of Yellowstone. We didn't enter on the East side where we exited the previous afternoon. We backtracked only a tiny bit and entered from the North. Enjoy the scenery on the way from Cody to Yellowstone.
The slope of these mountain roads is quite steep. This pastime(?)/sport(?) looks like something from Hell to me.
Shall I go into some Indian history that is pertinent to this area? The Nez Perce Indians. A certain Pacific Northwest tribe of Shahaptin stock was named the Nez Perce by French-Canadian trappers, no doubt because some of the Indians sported nose ornaments. The Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery met them in 1805 and at that time the Nez Perce were comprised of about 6000 people. There was a famous 1877 fighting retreat led by Chief Joseph and Chief White Bird which turned out to be the final and most extended Indian war in the region. The background to the Nez Perce War is unfortunately a lamentably familiar situation. In 1877, President Ulysses S. Grant, after screwing up the Indian situation in the Black Hills by sending Custer in and kicking the Indians out of their Sacred Land which they were ENTITLED to by the White Man's Treaty, opened the Nez Perce homeland to white settlement. In addition, to further screw the Indians, the government demanded that all roaming Nez Perce bands remove themselves ASAP and move onto the Lapwai reservation in present-day Idaho. Chief Joseph was a dignified and well-spoken man and he was selected to meet and discuss the demand with one-armed Civil War veteran Brigadier General Oliver O. Howard. There was little discussion. Howard delivered an ultimatum. Get out or else. The Indians, reluctantly, began to move away. Growing tension spurred a group of young bucks - Nez Perce warriors. These young Nez Perce renegade warriors staged unauthorized, murderous raids on settlers along the Salmon River. The elders of the tribes first hid the firebrands, but Chief Joseph knew that retribution would soon follow and he reluctantly prepared for war. A hurriedly assembled U.S. battalion marched on the main Nez Perce camp. A force of 300 Indians beat off the soldiers at White Bird Canyon in Idaho on June 17. The Nez Perce fled however, knowing they could not fight Howard's full army. Chief Joseph, Chief Ollokot, and others led about 800 Indians that summer on a remarkable escape attempt through Montana, then back north across present-day Yellowstone Park, waging a series of battles against the pursuing General Howard. The Indians traveled more than 1700 miles, outmaneuvering 10 companies of pursuing U.S. soldiers. The Indians stopped for badly needed rest near the Bear Paw Mountains in Montana, about 40 miles from the Canadian border. They thought they'd finally shaken off their pursuers. Crossing into Canada meant safety. However, Colonel Nelson A. Miles had led his troops on a 160-mile forced march to catch the Nez Perce. He attacked them on September 30 and after a five-day battle, the Indians fought the soldiers to a stalemate. Then their ponies were stampeded and Howard's reinforcements were closing in. Chief Joseph and his weary band finally capitulated. White Bird refused to surrender and escaped to Canada with some of the band. Chief Joseph surrendered: I am tired of fighting. Out chiefs are killed.... The old men are all killed.... It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills and have no blankets, no food; no one knows where they are, perhaps freezing to death. I want time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs, I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever. Chief Joseph was assured by the forked-tongued white man that the Nez Perce would be permitted to return to a remnant of their home in Oregon. Political pressure from the Northwest forced another outcome - exile to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma. In 1885, some of the Nez Perce were allowed to move onto the Lapwai Reservation in Idaho, but Chief Joseph and others were sent to the Colville Reservation in northeastern Washington, where Chief Joseph died and was buried in 1904. All of this history unfolded before where I stand.
Diversion and Escape: The Nez Perce War September 9, 1877. The Nez Perce knew that General Howard was at least a day behind them and Colonel Sturgis had moved his forces to the Stinking Water (Shoshone River). The Nez Perce, led by Lean Elk and Joseph, sensed an opportunity to escape. In an opening about two miles southeast of here, they milled their horses around in every direction to leave a confusion of tracks. They then backtracked north along a steep ridge and down a rough canyon until they reached the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River. The ploy worked. When General Howard arrived, his scouts were confused about which way the main body of the Nez Perce had gone. The Nez Perce had accomplished the unbelievable and escaped.
One Last Mountain: The Nez Perce War The ridge you are standing on was the last significant barrier for more than 600 Nez Perce Indians and their 2000 horses as they fled the pursuing U.S. Calvary. After the battle of the Big Hole a month earlier, they knew the Army did not intend to leave any survivors. This became a "flight for their lives." Now on the run for more than 60 days, they had hoped that by crossing this pass and reaching the plains they could join their old allies, the Crows, or hasten on to join Sitting Bull in Canada. They began climbing to this point from the valley below. By this time, all were exhausted and heartbroken from the long journey and aiding their sick and wounded. But they also knew that winter was closing in. If they could make it over this mountain fast enough, they just might escape the Army and regain their freedom.
Imagine standing in this place, reading about the Nez Perce, and visualizing the escape and final confrontation.
The Military: The Nez Perce War As a band of Nez Perce Indians outfought and outmaneuvered the U.S. Calvary in the fall of 1877, newspapers picked up on the drama. Some headlines read: "Comic Opera, Bungling of Pursuer, Salutes to a Most Remarkable Enemy, and the Nez Perce Splendid Military Intellect." This did not sit well with General Oliver O. Howard, who was leading the campaign, nor his superiors. The majority of public sentiment was blatantly against the Army in this David and Goliath war which had been costly in lives, funding, and public acceptance. The Seventh Calvary had all but been wiped out with Colonel Custer a year earlier at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and the unit was anxious for vindication. Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis, leading the Seventh, had also lost a son, Lieutenant Jack Sturgis, in that battle. General Howard also was without a single successful engagement to this point. The campaign became a personal crusade for the military officers. But at last, in the Army's estimation, the campaign was coming to an end. The military strategists laid a broad net around Yellowstone, and all exits from the park were blocked with more than 20 companies in place. This would prevent any escape for the Nez Perce and put a quick end to this embarrassing conflict. The Indians, as usual, were screwed. Royally. History is over. Continue on to scenery.
I'll leave you with Beartooth. And I hope, wanting more.