A few times in my lifetime, I knew, when it was happening, that a day would be etched in my mind forever. I just had a forever day at the Nez Perce Bear Paw Battlefield with Jim Magera, the foremost expert on the site.
Jim retired after 47 years as a high school history teacher and he shared his love for Native American culture and local history with thousands of students during his career. And if you visit the Bear Paw Battlefield in Chinook, Montana, in the morning, there is a good chance that you will find him there teaching visitors about the love of his life.
Jim first became interested in this battlefield in 1955 and first visited it in 1963. Throughout his life, Jim has consistently read about the Nez Perce and their flight of over 1,100 miles in 1877. The Nez Perce were attempting to make it to Canada so they would not be forced onto a reservation.
They almost made it. On October 5, 1877, Chief Joseph surrendered only 40 miles from the Canadian border.
This is his famous surrender speech:
“What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead, Too-hul-hul-sote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are, perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”
I hope you enjoy the short video I made of Jim Magera explaining why Chief Joseph surrendered and his heart-wrenching speech.
Jim is one in a million.