HWY 2 - Day 6 - Williston, ND - Malta, MT
Just west of Williston this morning atop the banks at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers stopped at the Fort Union Trading Post. The trading post was once the largest and busiest outpost on the upper Missouri River.
In 1804, Lewis and Clark visited the site, which they called "a judicious position for the purpose of trade". Twenty-five years later John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company established an outpost here. Linked by steamboat with St Louis some 1,800 miles away, the trading post reigned over the northern plains. The post was abandoned as the fur trade declined in the 1850's.
Leaving the trading post and heading west the Fort Peck Reservation stretches for nearly 100 mile along HWY 2. Today it is home to 6.800 Assiniboine and Yanktonai Sioux, but much of the area is owned by non-natives as a result of the unscrupulous land dealings encouraged by the 1887 Dawes Act. The landscape here becomes gentle rolling hills with horses standing proud.
Suddenly rising up over a low hill ancient creatures appeared along the highway. Looking again, more appeared.
Grazing, rising on rocks, roaming and controlling the landscape. It was a sudden blur along the road. There...then gone. Maybe it was a glare off my handle bars...I dared to turn around and check. Maybe too many bumps in the road had shaken my imagination.
HWY 2 through the Milk River Valley today was the two laner you always dream of riding. No wind, no traffic, blue skies, two lanes smooth as silk.
The highway unfolded under my tires carrying me across the landscape to a never ending horizon. Two other riders pass by taking in the moment of the road. Just doesn't get any better on two wheels.
Stopped at Sleeping Buffalo Rock ten miles west of Saco. A nearby wind-swept ridge overlooking the Cree Crossing on the Milk River was the original resting place of this ancient weather-worn effigy. There the boulder sat as the leader of a herd of reclining buffalo envisioned in an outcrop of granite. Incised markings made in the distant past define its horns, eyes, backbone, and ribs. Since late prehistoric times, native peoples of the Northern Plains have revered the Sleeping Buffalo’s spiritual power. Oral traditions reveal that it was well known to the Cree, Chippewa, Sioux, Assiniboine, and Gros Ventre as well as the more distant Blackfeet, Crow, and Northern Cheyenne. Stories passed from generation to generation tell how the “herd” fooled more than one buffalo-hunting party.
I gently placed an offering of tobacco in the ancient incised horns of the buffalo. This timeless rock continues to figure prominently in traditional Native ceremonies. It provides a link to ancestral peoples of the high plains and the long ago time when, as one elder put it, “The power of the prairie was the buffalo.”
I thanked the Grandfathers for a safe journey. For a life filled with joy and peace.
Kickstand down Malta, MT 270 Miles.
be strong, be safe, Talon