Friends of Bear Paw, Big Hole & Canyon Creek Battlefields
Big Hole National Battlefield Commemorates the 125th Anniversary
The commemorative events to remember the 125th anniversary of the Battle of the Big Hole were held August 9-11, 2002 at the Big Hole National Battlefield. The weather was perfect with clear blue skies and crisp nights. The first Montana snow of the season had fallen over the mountains days before the event creating a picture perfect backdrop.
Descendents of battle participants from both sides of the fight were present for the three-day event. A dinner in their honor was given the evening of the 9th, hosted by former Superintendent Jon James. Jerry Greene, Friends’ Advisory Board member and author of Nez Perce Summer 1877, made a presentation about the battle.
The guests were also privileged that evening to attend the premier of the new NPS documentary about the battle, "Wéet’u Ciklíitukt, There Is No Turning Back."
The following morning opened with the Nez Perce pipe ceremony at the site of the village. As the crowd gathered they soon noticed, approaching from the hills, the Nez Perce Appaloosa Horse Club dressed in their best regalia. It was an incredible site.
Throughout the three days there were many other events such as Nez Perce storytellers, pitching tipis and soldier shelters, ranger-led tours throughout the battlefield, food (Indian tacos and fry bread), and bugle call demonstrations.
The highlight, by far was the 10:00 P.M. – 12:00 A.M. candle light vigil of August 9. For the first time in 125 years there was light, in the middle of the night, in the Nez Perce village. 160 luminaries were placed along the path through the village to remember all the wounded and killed from both sides. Walking through the village with only candles to light the trail was a once in a lifetime experience. And the view from the vantage point high above at the visitor center looking toward the village below was quite a site. It was a great circle of soft light.
Below we present a few photos of the events. We hope you enjoy them.
Photos © Bob Reece