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Uploaded:2011-05-25
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In which Hank talks about the Nez Perce war and the Battle of the Big Hole. Katherine and I stopped by the Big Hole Battlefield on the way home from a mini-vacation.

"I hope that no more groans of wounded men and women will ever go to the ear of the Great Spirit Chief above, and that all people may be one people." Chief Joseph

"With women's hearts breaking, children weeping and men silent, we moved over the divide and closed our eyes upon our once happy homes. We were wanderers on the prairie. For what? For white man's greed. The white man wanted the wealth our people possessed; he got it by the destruction of our people. We who yesterday were rich are beggars today, made so by the order of a Christian white chief. We have no country, no people, no home. We do not desire longer life, and we pray day and night that the Great Spirit will remove us"
Chief White Bird, October 22nd, 1877


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A Bunny
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Good morning, John. Do you ever worry that all of the wonderful things that, uh, occupy the space in our lives are built on, uh, human suffering and misery? So a couple of weeks ago, Katherine and I were on a little mini-vacation at a hot spring in Jackson, Montana. A very small town, uh, just the hot spring pretty much; that's all that's there. We were on our way home and we noticed a big sign for a thing and we were like, "Well, we got a whole day to drive home, let's look at the thing!" My hair looks extremely good today. I want my hair to look like this forever. I look like Topher Brink from -- from The Dollhouse. That's... What a horribly nerdy thing to want to look like. Oh my goodness. Anyway, we saw the sign, and we wanted to stop, and that is how I learned about the Nez Perce War, the last of the Indian wars in America. I've never had a particularly good conception of what Native Americans were like in eighteen hundreds in the west. There are sort of two prevailing views: There's the cowboys and Indians one where we're shooting each other, and then there's the New Age-y, in touch with the earth, seventh generation, use all of the buffalo, nomadic wanderer idea. And there's probably elements of truth in both of those, but what I would not have thought is that Native Americans in the west in the eighteen hundreds were both powerful and rich. Now, I'm not talking about wisdom and spirituality; I'm talking about militarily powerful and economically rich. In fact, they were much better fighters than the American cavalry, and the numbers in these battles reflect that. There were far more American cavalry members who died than Native Americans. What the Nez Perce Indians did economically was really remarkable. In the fifty years between when white settlers started showing up and this last Indian war, the Nez Perce were able to use the resources they had at their disposal, their land and their knowledge of their land, in combination with entirely new technologies like horses and guns, and carve out an extremely valuable and unique niche in the American economy, which was making really great horses for the American West. That wasn't all that they did, but that was sort of what they were famous for, and it made a lot of Nez Perce very wealthy, and it made a lot of Nez Perce tribes very powerful. So let's go real quick to the board. The board is something that I've been experimenting with. The board! So I just wanted to give you an idea of what caused the Nez Perce war. This is the original homeland of the Nez Perce, and then this was the original treaty that the United States government had with the Nez Perce. This was their, uh, agreed upon homeland. However, the fact that this area contained lots of good cattle range and later they discovered, actually, lots of gold, became very problematic. So partially because the United States feared letting the Nez Perce get their hands on this gold and continuing to have this extremely valuable resource in the form of land, the United States compelled by force the Nez Perce to sign another treaty that gave them this land. Obviously, not a good deal, and many of the Nez Perce tribes decided not to sign that treaty. These are the tribes that we ended up going to war with. This is where Katherine and I were that day at the site of the Battle of the Big Hole in the beautiful Big Hole Valley where the Nez Perce were ambushed. They had no idea that this force was after them. They were attacked during the night. The vast majority of losses were women and children and the elderly stuck in their teepees as General Gibbon's force rode through their camp. To me, of course, hundreds of years later, this does not look like a battlefield; it just looks like a beautiful valley. We seem kind of obsessed, uh, with remembering the places where we lost battles. But I think it's probably more important, actually, for the future of our culture and even maybe our species, that we remember the places where we lost something more than that. Like, for example, our humanity and our ability to tell when we're doing something wrong. In this valley a nation of strong and wise people lost their lives, their families, their possessions, their homes, everything that they owned. They lost those things to greed, to complacency, to prejudice, and they lost those things not because they were weak but because they were strong. That's something that I think it worth remembering every once in a while, John, I'll see you on Friday.