Posts made in February, 2015

The Sleeping Gros Ventre

On June 23, 1925, one of the largest fast-moving landslides in generations occurred near the town of Kelly, Wyoming. According to the written records published by the USDA Forest Service, in just three minutes, huge amounts of rock and debris cascaded down the north slope of Sheep Mountain and changed the area forever. Quoting from the Forest Service document, the rockslide hurled down the slope at 50 mph, the mile-wide slide carried 50,000,000 cubic yards of debris. The mass rode 300 feet up the opposite slope, blocked the Gros Ventre River, and formed a five- mile long body of water known today as Lower Slide Lake. The piles of debris seen today contain large chunks of Tensleep Sandstone, along with remnants of the original forest. Throughout the years, many people have wondered what caused this tremendous slide. Three primary factors are thought to have contributed to the unusual event: Heavy rains and rapidly melting snow saturated the Tensleep Sandstone, causing the Amsden Shale rock layer on Sheep Mountain to become exceptionally slippery; The Gros Ventre river, cutting through the sandstone, produced a “free side” with no extra support holding it in course; Swampy pools with no outlets, on top of the mountain, indicating water-saturated soil. Earthquake tremors (which were occurring) added to these already unstable factors and could have precipitated a landslide. However, relatives of the Arapaho, the Gros Ventre Indians, have their own version of this slide. Shown pictures of the sliding hillside by Ella E. Clark in the 1950’s, a Gros Ventre man on the Fort Hall Reservation told the following legend to which his people had handed down for generations.  “Long ago, there was a large cave which was entered from the side of this mountain in the picture. A stream flowed through the valley, and there was plenty of wood for fires. Few people ever went into the cave because it was so very large and because its far interior was dark. Only during times of danger would the Indians use it as their retreat. Once when a large party of hunters were killing buffalo, the sun became covered with something. Darkness came in the middle of the day. People were very much frightened. They thought that the great ball of fire (Coona) had gone out. So they went into the cave, driving before them a herd of buffalo. Almost immediately, the entrance fell in and completely closed the cave. As the day was very dark anyway when they entered, the people did not know they were shut in. They felt safe in their retreat. As there were no other opening to the cave, they are still there. They are now a large tribe. The...

Read More

Apache Fort, A Battle Remembered In Stone

In 1914, two Arapaho Elders, Gun Griswald and Sherman Sage, returned to the hunting grounds of their youth in the Estes Valley – Grand Lake area. Their trip was arranged by the Colorado Mountain Club who wanted to preserve the area as a national park and asked the Elders to provide the Arapaho names for many of the local landmarks they remembered from their childhood before they had been relocated to the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Since none of the professional anthropologists who were contacted about the project were willing to go on the pack trip, Oliver Toll, an untrained young man, was chosen to go and record the findings. He reported the story of the area just as it was told to him with little editorial comment. So let the reader be the judge. The following is the story of Apache Fort, a story of a great battle told in stone. It was around the year 1855 and the Arapaho were camped on the west side of present day Moraine Park in the beautiful Estes Valley. The area was plentiful with game and wild plants that the Arapaho were able to use for survival off the land. Elk, mule deer, moose, big horn sheep, cougars, eagles, black bear and many more animals shared the vast valley with them which also meant the area was one the Arapaho band had to protect from other Natives wanting the rich valley for their own. Sentries were regularly posted at the camp, patrolling the area vigilantly and it was most likely these young men who first gave the alert. Apaches! The Apache war party numbered about 50 warriors and had come into the valley from the south west. The Arapaho warriors grabbed up their weapons, mainly bows and arrows with a few old Canadian flint locks, and confronted their enemies in Beaver Park, somewhat south of the High Drive.  What followed was a great battle between the Arapaho and Apache that lasted at least two days, if not longer. Sherman Sage was a boy of four at the time and remembered the wounded being brought into camp. This included his older brother who was most likely tended to by their mother, Long Walker, and other women of the camp. The story of the battle itself was not retold by firsthand account, but by the story left behind in stone monuments laid down by the warriors themselves. Sage explained the battle to Toll, pointing out the stones at an area the whites called “Indian Fort”. The first pile of stones was a monument where the first Arapaho man had been killed. Near this pile, there were 3 or 4 stones off to themselves....

Read More