Trip West: Crowheart Butte in the Wind River Valley

“Fields of Gold” oil on linen board (11×14)

I saw this scene behind a rest area. Could not believe how beautiful the whole field looked bathed in gold. Little did I know what significance this place held. This is really a fascinating coincidence!! I have been reading about American frontier trappers like John Colter and Native American people especially Chief Washakie and then I see this ” Crowheart Butte” article. That’s the butte in my painting! This distinctive formation caught my eye immediately. It actually reminded me a little of the famous Pedernal in Abiquii. A great battle was fought by warring tribes, the Shoshones and Bannocks against the Crows. Finally, after days of fierce fighting Chief Washakie, seeking to find a better solution than the loss of more lives, challenges the Crow Chief Big Robber to a duel to the death. The winner and their tribe would stay and the loser, who most certainly would die, their tribe would have to leave. Also the winner will eat the heart of the loser. Of course the last part is probably high drama but it is said that “And the story goes that the victorious Shoshone Chief and warrior removed the heart of his foe and displayed it on his lance. Hence, the name Crowheart Butte.”

Read the story…

“Crowheart Butte was where a four-day battle had raged at its base in 1866. It was here where the Shoshones and Bannocks fought the Crows over hunting rights on the lands. As it was, the Crows had been given the valley in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. The Shoshones and Bannocks were given the valley in the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1863. Now, three years later, the Nations went to war”

So much history in this area. The history of the Pioneers who dared to travel in an unknown territory is a daunting one. Many lost their lives along the way and once settled, the struggle only began. It is a fascinating time and I must say I admire the strength and endurance of these hearty individuals who wanted to have a slice of the pie that was the American West. On the other side of the coin is the sad realization that the Native People would soon be driven off their native lands due to the continued expansion. I wonder what would have happened if they were not driven away and the two cultures could merge? We will never know. There is a wonderful book written by the late, David McCullough, “The Pioneers”: The Heroic Story of the Settlers that visits this story of the early settlers in America.

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