Wyoming and Montana Trip, July 19 – 23, 2021
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Summary of NASTaP Summer 2021 Trip
Our NASTaP Summer 2021 Trip was, in a nutshell, awesome! We traveled with a group of 21 to Montana and Wyoming for six wonderful days filled with sacred sites and battlefields — and lots of history!
First on the agenda was Little Bighorn Battle site … Custer’s Last Stand … Battle of the Greasy Grass … and we had a Crow Indian guide to take us back in time through the battle. Along with the tour of the immense area where thousands of Native Americans were camped and met up with the 7th Cavalry Regiment, we also witnessed gravestones where soldiers fell and a memorial to honor the Native Americans who lost their lives.
Next up was a drive with spectacular scenery to The Bighorn Medicine Wheel high in the Bighorn Mountains. The hike to the top was beautiful and the Medicine Wheel awaited us as we reached the summit. What a spectacular and sacred setting. We were fortunate to have a Northern Cheyenne elder talk to us about the wheel and interpret how her people honor and use it. A prayer flag she tied on for NASTaP now adorns the fence around the Wheel.
The next day (yes, we still had energy!) was a step back in history as our guide, Bob Wilson, led us through a weapons demonstration and a tour of Ft. Phil Kearny, the Fetterman Site and Wagonbox Site as well. Wow, there was lots of information with such a knowledgeable guide.
Our last destination, Bear Lodge (Devils Tower) was a WOW. We were all moved by the sacredness of this special place. Modified trees, burials and many, many prayer flags tied to the trees were along the base of this sacred rock which rose up to the heavens. As we walked on the trail around Bear Lodge and witnessed all the tree peels and other modifications, along with colorful prayer flags and juniper trees marking burial sites, we felt honored to experience such a sacred site.
Our evenings were filled with stays in quaint motels, cookouts, nightly gatherings, talks and new and rekindled friendships. Thank you to all who were a part of this memorable week. It was such a special time.
Heidi Wigand-Nicely and Bruce Clark, Trip Coordinators
Thanks to Lee Recca for this, written in Buffalo, Wyoming, while on our recent trip:
“Today I was looking at the remains of the stockade fence that once surrounded Fort Kearny. Soldiers, seeking the honor, glory and riches they were denied by the end of the Civil War, came to the fort in droves. They were put to work, not in training, drills or fighting as they had envisioned, but in cutting wood for the buildings and stockade fences. Some 40 wagons a day, each bearing six or seven logs 11 feet long, went from the Pinery to the sawmill to the fort.
The logs were placed in trenches three feet deep to stand at attention, side by side, defending the fort. Only the straightest trunks were chosen, at least 12 inches in diameter. How long did it take a pine tree to grow that thick? What percentage of trees grew that straight?
The wise elders of the tribes valued the straight trunks too. They selected the straightest saplings for their spears, especially the measuring spears, and the poles for the tipis. Thirteen straight poles supported the tipis, corresponding to the 13 months of the year. Twenty-eight days comprised each month, corresponding to women’s life-giving cycles and the phases of the moon.
But the tribes also valued the bent saplings. In fact, they used cordage to modify the supple young pine trees, creating a language in the living wood. Those words have endured through the decades and centuries. And the straight and tall trees have sacrificed to their twisted siblings, serving as the decoy warriors so that the trees could speak through the ages.”