Friends of Bear Paw, Big Hole & Canyon Creek Battlefields

President's Message, by Robert Luppi

The past year has seen some important news from the Big Hole National Battlefield.

Importantly, there was the Grand Re-opening and Exhibit Dedication that was held at the battlefield on June 2, 2012 after years of planning, preparation and then re-modeling work at the Visitorís Center.

The re-opening ceremony included speakers, a ribbon cutting, and a tour of the revamped facility. Between fifty and sixty people were in attendance, which included Nez Perce tribal leaders, tribal members, representatives of the construction/contractors involved, NPS staff and rangers, and friends and families of all. Also included at the ceremony was our own Friends Board member, Mr. Jim Thorn, who provided us an excellent report of the events on that occasion.

Mr. Steve Black, the Big Hole National Battlefield Superintendent, spoke at the ceremony along with the Chairman of the Nez Perce Executive Committee and leaders of various Nez Perce tribes. They all spoke also of their thoughts about the importance of the site for ALL the people that were involved in the Battle of Big HoleóIndian and soldier---as well as the other battlefields along the Nez Perce Trail.

The revisions and remodeling of the revamped facility included a new roof, a redesigned entrance way/foyer, new theatre room and a presentation of new displays and exhibits, a new bookstore, and an interactive map of the entire Nez Perce Trail. A guided tour of the facility augmented the experience and edification of those present

Television coverage was provided along with a reporter for the dayís events, all of which inured to the great satisfaction of those present.



Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at the Big Hole

(Photo courtesy of Jim Thorn)


Beyond the Grand Re-opening, the Big Hole witnessed last summer the delivery of a refurbished soft drink machine which was purchased by our Friends organization and donated to the Big Hole battlefield and its Visitorís Center. Superintendent Black had earlier contacted our organization and requested our financial assistance in this regard and after a search by us of different vendors, we found such a machine for the Big Hole at a very reasonable cost. In lieu of using an outside vendor who previously supplied the machine and its inventory, the battlefield has now been able to own and stock its own machine with inventory procured by the staff themselves, the sum of which has resulted in an overall reduced cost, and thus securing the battlefield a net profit on sales of soft drinks to visitors, part of which is being used by the battlefield to further its own objectives and mission and, pursuant to an income splitting arrangement, the other part being distributed to the our Friends organization to further our own non-profit mission and objectives relative to the Big Hole, Bear Paw and Canyon Creek battlefields. We are very pleased by this joint venture with the Big Hole.

Recent reports have shown that sales from the soft drink machine have done well, and earlier this year the Friends received it first check as its share of the net profits from its sales!

The other news is the installation of a webcam last year at the Big Hole to allow the weather to be observed at the battlefield. To those of you who are unfamiliar with this, our Friends organization now has its own Facebook page (appropriately named ďFriends of Bear Paw, Big Hole & Canyon Creek Battlefields) which provides important information about the battlefields, including news and current events and interesting information pertaining to their participants.

In addition, both the Big Hole and the Bear Paw battlefields held their annual commemoration ceremonies last year, marking the 135th anniversaries of their respective battles. At the Big Hole, the largest crowd of Nez Perce in many years attended the ceremony on August 11, 2012, and a large turnout viewed the new exhibits and panels at the Visitorís Center and most people in attendance found it to be a very impressive presentation. At the Bear Paw, the ceremony was held on October 6 in good weather with 154 people attending which was highlighted by a Drum Song, a Pipe Ceremony, speeches by tribal leaders and members as well as a lunch which included traditional native food.

Last summer I was honored to tour the Bear Paw Battlefield again as a member of our Friends Board, along with a contingent of Indian Wars history buffs, including some Friends members from various parts of the country, including Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Maryland. We were led by Stephanie Martin, the Bear Paw Battlefield ranger, and by Jim Magera, one of our Friends advisors and also a part time ranger at the park. Both Stephanie and Jim have an extensive knowledge of the battle there and their participants and they did a fine job in explaining the sequence of events in the battle, the movements of the military and the Nez Perce during the course of the battle, the various areas of their engagement and other pertinent information.

In keeping with our mission, our Friends organization is also pleased to have recently financed the cost of advertising promoting the battlefield in a local publication in Chinook, MT. as a means of generating more visitations by both locals and tourists. Our financial assistance in this regard has been such for the past several years.

We were also very pleased to welcome Mr. Neil Mangum as a new Friends advisor last fall. Neil, a 34 year former employee of the National Park Service, has an abundance of knowledge and information relative to the American Indian wars of the 19th century and holds degrees from Virginia State University and the University of New Mexico. At the latter institution he earned his Masterís Degree and studied under the historian and author, Paul Hutton. Neil is former chief historian and superintendent of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and has held superintendent and historian positions at other historic sites in various parts of the country. Among his many writings and works is his Battle of the Rosebud, the battle involving General George Crook and his forces against the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians just days before the Custer battle of June 1876.

And just recently we delivered to our Friends members our latest newsletter which includes detailed information and stories about last yearís events at the battlefields, along with an interesting story and perspective about the minds of the soldiers on the eve of the Battle of the Big Hole, and a very captivating and trenchant account of the observations and impressions by one of our Friends members in the tour he made last summer of the Bear Paw Battlefield.

Onward now toward the rest of the year and we thank all of you for your interest and we are deeply grateful also to those Friends members and national park rangers and staff who provide support to our Friends organization!


Spring 2013