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Friends Summer Events 2007 - 131st Anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn
Chief Historian John Doerner
As expected, this year’s events over the anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn were dramatically lessened compared to 2001, 2003, and 2006. The crowds were noticeably fewer as gas prices have climbed over the last six months. The National Park Service held only one event; various groups, Indians and non-Indians alike managed the remainder.
The Friends members were busy as always volunteering for the NPS along the Deep Ravine and Keogh/Crazy Horse Trails as well as Last Stand Hill. We manned the trails on June 24-25, 2007, interpreting the story of the battle to the monument’s visitors. Sunday was one of the hottest days I’ve experienced since the summers of 1988 and 1997, with temps reaching near 100 degrees; however, Monday the 25th started cloudy, gray, and cool. People were wearing sweatshirts in the morning, but by 11:00 AM they were stuffed back into backpacks and replaced with T-Shirts. Still, Monday topped high 80s at best.
Friends Volunteers Supporting the Park Service
Friends also provided two social events: An archives program on Saturday June 23; and the Friends Feast (BBQ) on June 24. Both were held at the administration building on the battlefield.
The archives program provided Friends members and non-members a chance to learn about management of the archives as presented by Chief Curator Sharon Small. Ms. Small shared slides of various items in the archives with a focus on the Thomas Marquis collection. Ms. Small is attempting to match cultural and religious items seen in historic photos from the Northern Cheyenne Reservation with actual items maintained in the archives. She showed examples of items she has successfully identified, and some she is still trying to resolve.
Included in Smalls’ presentation was Park Ranger and Friends board member Jerry Jasmer’s showing of his personal collection of historic Springfields, which were in excellent condition.
Next, Ernie LaPointe, great grandson of Sitting Bull, shared his experience while visiting with representatives of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Ernie is assisting the park service with acquiring personal items of Sitting Bull for loan from the Smithsonian. These items would be displayed in the 2008 Sitting Bull exhibit at the Little Bighorn National Monument visitor center museum. They include the Winchester rifle that Sitting Bull surrendered to authorities at Ft. Buford, moccasins, leggings, and a lock of hair taken from Sitting Bull’s body at the time of his murder. Mr. LaPointe also expressed his reasons why he wishes his great grandfather’s remains be reinterred at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.
Our last speaker was a pleasant surprise to many in attendance. In the early 1970s the first book I read about the Plains Indian Wars as told from the Indian point of view was Cheyenne Memories by Dr. Margot Liberty. The audience was fortunate to have Dr. Liberty speak about her experiences with John Stands In Timber, Thomas Marquiz, and new projects she is developing. Dr. Liberty also allowed members of the audience to hold and read her original unedited 500 page manuscript of interviews she conducted with John Stands In Timber. Until just recently, Dr. Liberty believed all reel-to-reel tapes of those interviews were long lost because she would record over the tapes after she transcribed them. But Dr. Liberty did find the last tapes recorded and so she played samples from those interviews. Everyone in attendance heard the voice of John Stands In Timber for the first time. It was solemn. It was remarkable. Read interview with Liberty.
All but a handful of the audience then proceeded to Last Stand Hill just in time to see the sunset. This year there was no wind and it wasn’t cold; however, we quickly discovered a new problem: mosquitoes. The Little Bighorn River ran high during spring so there was more standing water than usual. We spent more time covering ourselves with bug spray than watching the sunset, but I was able to capture a few photos of it before it was all over.
We eventually made our way to the Indian Memorial where we all could soak in the moment. We were the only people on Last Stand Hill or Battle Ridge. Words cannot describe such an experience: the solitude, the quiet, the spiritual power of the place is overwhelming when all the tourists are gone. The last faint rays of the Montana sun shone in blues and oranges behind the Spirit Warriors and soon it was dark. Here the mosquitoes became worse. As much as we wanted to stay longer, we had to get out of there. We proceeded in the dark out of the memorial and down the road toward the visitor center parking lot and outside the gate. Another year, another moving sunset that Friends members viewed from Last Stand Hill.
Photos of June 23 Archival Presentation
The next day, June 24, the morning broke with plenty of sun and before the day was over the temperatures would reach around 100 degrees. Friends volunteers showed up for their chance to tell their side of the story of the Battle of the Little Bighorn to the monument visitors; they would not let a hot sun prevent them from doing just that. They could be seen interpreting the story along the Deep Ravine and Keogh/Crazy Horse Trails as well as on Last Stand Hill. Some volunteers also worked at Reno-Benteen Battlefield.
The NPS unveiled the new Arikara markers for Bloody Knife, Bobtail Bull, and Little Brave around 1:00 PM. The markers were donated by the Veterans Association. The ceremony began at the amphitheater and ended at Reno-Benteen Battlefield where the markers are on temporary display until they can be relocated to private lands in the valley floor. Attendance was low for the dedication probably due to the high temperatures. You can read more about these markers on our website.
Arikara Markers Ceremony June 24
Later that evening, Friends held its second Friends Feast as well as its general membership meeting at the administration building. It really was a perfect evening. As hot as it can become over that land, it does cool off quickly. Turn-out for the BBQ was double that of last year‘s. During the general membership meeting, Friends announced their contribution of $5,000 to the park service for the Sitting Bull museum exhibit. Friends board member Mike Semenock presented the check to Superintendent Darrell Cook. Mr. Cook was obviously moved. He thanked Friends for its continued support and assistance to the park service with projects and interpreting along the trails. Mr. Cook also stated that Friends is a great example of how such an organization can grow and succeed in its goals through cooperation.
Friends Feast June 24
Monday June 25th started very cool. Friends volunteers continued working the trails. The Lakota and Cheyenne held their annual ceremonies early in the morning. Steve Alexander’s 7th Cavalry was part of the ceremonies at Last Stand Hill and the Indian Memorial.
Last Stand Hill & Battle Ridge
I’d like to thank the National Park Service for allowing Friends to use Apartment C as our command post. As usual, the NPS staff was outstanding: Supt Darrell Cook, Ken Woody, and John Doerner helped ensure that Friends volunteers received all they needed to enable them to do their job for the park service.
Thanks to Mike Semenock for his excellent work in managing the volunteers again this year. Mike’s role takes a lot of time and effort and dedication. Everything went like clockwork because of his thoroughness.
A big thanks to Joanne Blair and United Sales & Services (a food brokerage firm in Denver) for providing a large portion of the food and drink for the Friends Feast. US&S’s contribution saves us hundreds of dollars for the Feast as well as the water provided to the volunteers for use along the trails. We’d also like to thank those individual companies that US&S brokers that contributed food and water:
Reser's Fine Foods (Potato and macaroni salads)
Patrick Cudahy (Meat brats)
Mountain Valley Springs Water
Turtle Island Foods (Veggie brats)
Finally, thank you to the Friends volunteers for their willingness to travel at their own expense to help the park service with interpretation at the battlefield. If you’re interested in participating as a volunteer next year, please let us know. You won’t be disappointed.
I’ll see you on Last Stand Hill,
July 25, 2007
Copyright 1999-2013 Bob Reece
Friends Little Bighorn Battlefield, P.O. Box 636, Crow Agency, MT 59022