Wednesday, August 28, 2002
Heights of the Bitterroots
Team North is saddling up for nearly the last time, and riding the Continental Divide National Scenic trail through the Beaverhead Mountains, which make up the Bitterroot Range, the most historied and beloved mountains of Montana.
These mountains, so rich in game and plants and water, were an important area for several indigenous tribes, particularly Northern Shoshone, Nez Perce, and Flathead. Plains tribes such as the Crow and Blackfeet also visited these mountains seasonally, to hunt game and gather wild plants such as the camas lily and the bitterroot from which the range derives its name.
After Europeans discovered precious minerals in these mountains,the tribes were pushed out of their traditional lands, and in the case of the Nez Perce, the loss of these lands destroyed two generations of peaceful relations with the Americans. The Nez Perce who refused to cede their land were chased by the US Army through Idaho, into the Bitterroot Range, down the valley of the Big Hole River, and into Yellowstone National Park, before turning north again in a desparate attempt to find refuge in Canada. Team North will be paralleling the route of what is now the Nez Perce National Historic Trail as they too travel toward Yellowstone National Park.