That evening, Bid and I survived the narrow winding deteriorating road to the town of East Glacier as the park seemed to be closing behind us.
It was not lost on us how the stellar weather had opened an opportunity for us to see a part of this country that in most years shuts down the beginning of September.
The next day we regrouped….visited one more museum, the Museum of the Plains Indian, in Browning, Montana and headed down the hill to Helena, where I planned to visit another dear friend, Shimmer, whom I had met years before on that hike in Yellowstone.
She's the one who got me up the mountain and I'm still pinching myself that I was able to see her again.
So that was pretty much that.
After some celebration, Bid, Shimmer and I hugged, got a bit emotional and watched Bid drive away toward her next adventure after which I crawled back into my warm bed,
exhausted from the travel and a cold I'd suffered from the entire journey…..
'Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Bray is located three miles from downtown Helena, Montana on the site of the former Western Clay Manufacturing Company. Set against the wooded foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the 26-acre former brickyard is internationally recognized as a gathering place for emerging and established ceramic artists. The nearby mountains and brick factory ruins provide a backdrop for the creative environment; more important is the dynamic arts community created by the resident artists that come to the Bray to work, share experiences, and explore new ideas.'
And as everything else was closing due to the impending winter weather, this place was pretty much shut down as well..
as that weather finally seemed to be closing in on us and snow was in the forecast…
we saw this….
a short video taken by Shimmer from the side of the road...
And the perfect ending to my 2,000 mile road trip.
After 8 days of travel and 1,500 miles from where we began in Telluride, Colorado,
we finally arrived at the Grand Coulee Dam near the Colville Reservation in the state of Washington,
where we believed our Chief Joseph was buried.
After spending the night at a hotel near the dam, we drove a remote road to the Colville Reservation and located Chief Joseph's gravesite in a small dusty cemetery.
If it were not for the state's historical society, we wondered what kind of monument would have been built for him. This site is not well known, or easy to find.
It might confuse some that come to Joseph, Oregon to pay their respects
perhaps unknowingly at his father's grave.
I am not well versed on what really happened in his life that would have caused him to live here with other non-treaty tribes instead of on the Nez Perce land in Idaho,
however I gleaned that his life was not a happy one here.
It was noted by the doctor that his cause of death,
"was a broken heart".
Bid and I held hands and said another 'forgiveness' prayer for all of us.
Release, Release, Realease……
Those were not the words of the prayer, but they were our intention,
and we felt it working on us as well.
We left the gravesite knowing his spirit was not there,
with the general feeling that we were all at peace,
and that collectively our work to get there had been a good thing.
We also began to notice the smoke of the wild fires in that area, but still enjoyed the spectacular views of the Columbia River as we drove away from the reservation.
As I had a date to fly home from Helena and Bid was to be at the Bear Paw site the following weekend, we decided our next stop would be somewhere in Montana.
As we left Joseph, Oregon and the banks of the Imnaha,
we only knew it seemed right to head to
Lewiston, Idaho where the Nez Perce/US Treaty established a reservation
for the majority who signed it. This treaty was referred by some as the 'Steal' Treaty of 1863,
and eventually caused the clash between Chief Joseph's band and the US Government.
In Lewiston, the Nez Perce Visitor's Center delighted us with evidence of their ancient crafts and culture, and current customs of this modern tribe.
We were happy to glean, while we were there, that the Nez Perce of that area seemed to be well, happy and proud of their heritage. We learned that their livelihood as fishermen and women was impacted by upstream dams and that they seem to have recovered and run a vibrant fishing industry. At least that's how it seemed. After some discussion with a Native Healer there, we learned that they were being guided by their elders to honor their forefathers, and with ceremony, help them all to release the sadness and bitterness of the past. Bid also learned there was to be a commemorative ceremony at the
So there we were in the sweet quiet town of Joseph,
named after the Josephs, the Elder and the Younger
without, by the way, any visual evidence of Native Americans currently residing there.
It was a bittersweet visit. The people we met, both residents, and tourists alike were the friendliest we were to encounter on our journey.
While we were shopping in town, Bid met a woman, about our age, who had been raised by her grandparents in the rural Wallowa Valley.
Sue was sympathetic to our pilgrimage. She graciously invited us to her home to view an amazing print she had hanging over her fireplace which commemorated Joseph's last flight for freedom.
While in Joseph, we learned that the people of this county live in harmony with one another, no matter their status, rich or poor, young or old, race or creed.
We heard it said, "we have each other's backs".
We also learned that, by one account, the Nez Perce tribe offered to purchase a sacred plot of land from an old rancher who was selling his property and he had refused to sell to them. We learned that the State intervened and purchased the land with the rancher unaware that the Nez Perce had put up the money.
It's now a park in town, and we believe the 'bones' of their fathers are somewhere near.
This is a very sad story, and our empathy increased with each chapter.
We were told that Old Chief Joseph's (Joseph's father) remains were eventually moved to this location in Joseph.
We went to his grave, and sat on a hill nearby
and recited a 'forgiveness' prayer.
It was that moment, Bid and I realized that Forgiveness was to be the theme for our journey.
The story goes that, as Old Chief Joseph passed on leadership to his son, he directed him
"not to sell the bones of your parents,"
as he was being pressured by the government to give up their homeland to settlers and gold diggers.
That was to be the legacy Chief Joseph the Younger ….
to not give up the sacred land of his people.
We experienced that the Joseph band of the Nez Perce's homeland in the Wallowa Valley
was and still remains a most
beautiful, serene, fertile and safe place.
It is a temperate valley, comfortable in both winter and summer.
We were in their 'summer home' and and before we left the area,
we visited their 'winter home',
deep in the valley on the banks of the Imnaha.
Eventually, Joseph and his band of Nez Perce were forced to leave this valley.
From here, they travelled for 3 months to escape the US government groups…