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The Next Generation In The Study Of Custer's Last Stand
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Friends Summer Events June 21-22, 2013 -- 137th Anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn
by Bob Reece
Lone Soldier Marker in Calhoun Coulee
Photo by Bob Reece, Taken During Friends Field Trip
This year, Friends members had an extraordinary weekend of events June 21 and 22, 2013. Our field trip in 2012 started at 6:00 PM with temperatures hovering around 103 degrees! This year, partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the 60s welcomed us at the same time.
Superintendent Denice Swanke and her staff made our members feel welcomed and allowed us the use of the second floor of the administration building for our command post. Thank you Denice and your staff for all the support you gave us during the weekend.
NPS Staff, L-R: Chief of Interp Ken Woody, Supt Denice Swanke, Marvin Dawes, Joshua Little Owl, Student Conservation Association (SCA) intern Fleming Garner, Steve Adelson, Jerry Jasmer, Chief of Cultural & Natural Resources Chris Ziegler, Karl Mattlage, Michael Donahue, Frances Takes Enemy. Not present is Ranger Rachel Vegors
Members arrived first thing Friday morning to register and pick up name badges. A big thank you for Den Mother Joanne Blair, who stocked the command post with snacks and water and kept me moving to the next place!
L-R: Den Mother Joanne Blair, Friends Secretary Lola Mauer, LIBI Supt Denice Swanke while on the Doug Scott field trip
Friends board member, Ryan Trainor, models the vest at Last Stand Hill
Saturday evening, we held our annual general membership meeting and Friends Feast to thank the volunteers and membership. Usually we hold it behind the administration building, but this year we were rained out. We moved everyone upstairs to the command post where Julie Elkshoulder and her staff served us at the table. Talk about service! Thank you Julie. After dinner, I gave the membership an update of Friends news. There was great applause when they learned that since 2004, Friends has donated over more than $54,000 towards projects at LIBI. Denice Swanke also gave an update regarding battlefield news.
I also wish to thank Denice for allowing Kay and Friends board member Lola Mauer to manage the Friends table, which was placed in front of the visitor center. Kay made a great banner so visitors felt welcome to approach and learn about Friends. Kay and Lola struck gold and garnered about one dozen new members, plus many renewals from our members in attendance. Looking at the photos of Kay and Lola is proof of how much fun they had. Besides the command post, the Friends table was also a fantastic location for members to congregate and visit with each other and the NPS staff. I think all of the staff stopped by multiple times over the weekend. It was a blast! Thank you Kay and Lola for doing such a great job!
Friends board members Kay Hunsaker and Lola Mauer at the Friends table
It was at our table that we had Doug Scott sign copies of his new book, Uncovering History for the public Saturday afternoon. It was a good turnout with about 30 copies sold.
Doug Scott signs a copy of Uncovering History for a couple visiting from Manchester, England.
Denice also allowed us the use of one of the gem carts to transport our volunteers to the head of the Keogh/Crazy Horse Trail. This battery powered roadster came in handy when having to rush out there to bring volunteers in from the Montana thunderstorms, which can be quite powerful. Considering that a person standing on the battlefield is the tallest object around, one does not want to be caught in such electrical storms.
Kay and Lola heading out in a LIBI gem cart.
The highlight of the weekend was our June 21st annual fundraiser field trip, "Whatever Happened to Trooper Mike and other Mysteries of Custer's Last Stand" an archaeological walk led by Doug Scott. I cannot thank Doug enough for leading the walk, which ensured the fundraiser was a success.
To start the field trip on time, we shuttled 50 plus people from the visitor center to the cattle guard below Calhoun Hill. I'd like to thank Rick Martin, Mike Donahue, Park Ranger Joshua Little Owl, and Friends board member Mike Semenock for driving walkers to our starting point. Attending our walk were Denice Swanke, Chief of Cultural and Natural Resources Chris Ziegler, and Park Ranger Mike Donahue. It was Denice's first chance to get onto that part of the battlefield.
Like all our previous field trips, we explored the battlefield off-trail in the Greasy Grass Ridge, Calhoun Coulee, and Deep Ravine areas. Scott's presentation during the walk was exceptional. Scott has led all the archaeological surveys at the battlefield since 1984, and is considered an expert on this battle; he understands how to present the events in all their glory.
We walk down into Calhoun Coulee
Scott concealed us behind Greasy Grass Ridge to begin the walk. As he led us up to and over its crest, we saw before us the wide panoramic view of Battle Ridge from Calhoun Hill to Last Stand Hill. In between was a land fractured by wide coulees and ravines, which once provided access for the warriors to move in close for the attack. This field trip provided an opportunity to not only view the battlefield from the Indian perspective, but to rethink ideas. Whenever I picture Friends field trips, this is the experience that I hope to provide our members.
You might be asking how you can attend future Friends field trips. Friends' members first learn about the walks when we announce them in our newsletters. Because we are limited to just 50 people, we give our members the first chance to register by sending in the registration form found in the newsletter. If you're not a member, then it would be in your best interest to join now to ensure you don't miss any future announcements. Just jump here to join online.
It was another great anniversary weekend for everyone; we all got to see old friends and make new ones. Here's hoping you can make it next year, June 27-28, 2014.
I'll see you on Last Stand Hill.
Copyright 1999-2013 Bob Reece
Friends Little Bighorn Battlefield, P.O. Box 636, Crow Agency, MT 59022