Friends of Bear Paw, Big Hole & Canyon Creek Battlefields

News From The Sites

Big Hole Battlefield

Visitor Center Grand Re-opening June 2, 2012

All photos courtesy of Jim Thorn

Friends of Bear Paw, Big Hole and Canyon Creek Battlefields was very privileged to be able to attend the grand re-opening of the visitor center at the Big Hole National Battlefield on June 2, 2012. The re-opening ceremony included speakers, a ribbon cutting and a tour of the revamped facility.

Between 50-60 people were in attendance for the ceremony. Mountain showers looked like they might affect the outside ceremony, but stayed away long enough for everyone to speak. In attendance were Tribal leaders, Tribal members, representatives of the construction/contractors involved with the work, NPS staff and rangers, and friends and family of all.



The Big Hole Battlefield and valley as seen from the newly redesigned visitor center

Big Hole National Park Superintendent Steve Black spoke first and outlined the work done on the building. This included a new roof, a redesign of the entrance way/foyer, a new theatre room, and updating of displays and artifacts on presentation. Mr. Black thanked all who contributed to the project and everybody for being in attendance. He then introduced the speakers invited to share a few words.

Superintendent Steve Black

The speakers were Mr. Silas Whitman, Chairman of the Nez Perce Executive Committee; Mr. Fermore Craig and Mr. Gerald Reed, both of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation; Mr. Albert Andrews Redstar, of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation; and Mr. Wilfred Scott, of the Nez Perce Tribe. They all spoke of their thoughts about the importance of the site, for ALL the people that were involved in the Battle of Big Hole - both Indian and soldier - as well as the other battlefields along the Nez Perce Trail.

The speakers and cutting ribbon ceremony

Mr. Scott - a veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam wars - also introduced his wife Bessie and his grand daughter Bessie, who is currently a ranger at the Big Hole. He is a very proud Grandpa!

After the speakers had concluded, Mr. Black invited all the speakers and the NPS staff and rangers to “cut the ribbon” and thus officially open the revised visitor center for the public.

The visitor center features new exhibits, an interactive map of the entire Nez Perce Trail, a new theatre and the “old “ theatre room providing a more spacious panoramic view outside of the battlefield.

I spoke with Steve Black, and I reiterated that Friends is committed to helping the NPS with preservation and promotion of Big Hole, Bear Paw, and Canyon Creek Battlefields. Mr. Black was cordial and appreciative that my wife and I could attend the grand re-opening as representatives for Friends. He clearly appreciates what Friends has done in assisting the NPS, and he looks forward to working with us in the future.

On a personal note, I was very glad to be able to attend the ceremony and represent the Friends. We had a great trip! We spent the night in Wisdom, Montana and as always are amazed at the beauty and splendor that Montana provides!

Jim Thorn
Friends Board Member


Friends board member Jim Thorn


Bear Paw Battlefield

Buffalo Robe Tipi Raised

October 2010:

A rare look back at a 150-year-old buffalo hide tipi in the park's collection which was photographed for the virtual museum project. The tipi was probably made in the 1850s and consists of sixteen to twenty buffalo hides, stitched together with sinew.

Mylie Lawyer, whose family is associated with the tipi, says it was owned by Chief Lawyer's wife, Ow-yeen, and Mylie's father Corbett grew up in it, listening to stories about Nez Perce culture and history. The last time it was publicly displayed was 1950. Over forty people, including Mylie and other Nez Perce elders, watched in anticipation as the park staff gently raised the rare hide dwelling, one of the few extant buffalo hide tipi's left in the United States.

The photos below are from 2005.



Chief Joseph Trail Ride -- 2009

Each year during the anniversary of the Big Hole Battle, the Nez Perce hold a trail ride that originates from Idaho and finishes at Big Hole on the anniversary. The photos below are from the trail ride in August 2009.


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