Help Hetty ride the Nez Perce Historic Trail!
$110 raised
0% of $25k goal
2 contributors
5 Years running
My name is Hetty Dutra. In 1994, I took my horses, gathered some friends, and rode the Nez Perce National Historic Trail—about 1,300 miles—a journey undertaken by the Nez Perce people in 1877 when they fled their homelands while pursued by the U.S. ...
My name is Hetty Dutra. In 1994, I took my horses, gathered some friends, and rode the Nez Perce National Historic Trail—about 1,300 miles—a journey undertaken by the Nez Perce people in 1877 when they fled their homelands while pursued by the U.S. Army. The trail passes through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. The flight of the Nez Perce is one of the most fascinating events in Western U.S. history. In 2014, I will do it again. I will be 71.

When people ask me why I did this in 1994, the short story is that I was at a bad place in my life and needed to heal. I came upon a map of the National Trail System that included the Nez Perce National Historic Trail. Research drew me to the Nez Perce story and their flight. Elements of greed, lies, religious conflict, oppression, and tragedy, make it a universal story. In May 1993, I decided to ride the entire trail, thinking it would be not just a personal journey but a pilgrimage.

I organized the trip with a Nez Perce rider, a photographer, and a back up driver. It felt healing and presented an opportunity for our rider to tell the story from his Nez Perce perspective. I believed others would join my journey, and thought a book might result but had no definitive plan. With your help, this ride may change that.

I have ridden horses all my life and brought four great horses that I raised. I had a camper with room for two horses in the back that stored everything, and a gooseneck stock trailer to get the horses to Oregon. I received permission to ride through Yellowstone from the Nez Perce, and approval from the Red Thunder tribe, a non-treaty band, in Washington. Major support came from Taz Connor, a descendant of Chief Joseph's brother, Ollocot, who lived in the Wallowas. Support from Alphonse Halfmoon, another non-treaty Nez Perce who lived on the Umatilla reservation, and from Horace Axtell and his family, the Wallasit religious leader of the Nez Perce, from Idaho, also came forward.

The first part of the trail is the toughest. Our ride began when we left the monument near Lake Wallowa, Oregon where Chief Joseph and Palouse tribes had been, crossing the deepest river gorge in America and the Snake River, and traversing the Joseph Plains. We crossed the Salmon and circled to where the non-treaty Nez Perce fled, to White Bird. Following across the Salmon, over the Joseph Plains again, and across the Salmon on the North side, to Clearwater and over the Lolo Pass, we continued down the Bitterroot Valley, over the Continental Divide, and arrived at Big Hole, where the Nez Perce thought they were safe, but suffered a massacre instead.

From this point, everything changed for my team. Our back up driver and Nez Perce rider left. After crossing the Divide again, the photographer left at Leadore. Everyone was gone and I hadn’t even reached the halfway point at Dubois yet. When I reached Rifle Pits, it was a relief and comfort to know others had ridden this trail before me, as if the camaraderie of past riders of the trail reached forward to support my ride. Heading East, the Nez Perce National Historic Trail rounds Point Reno and crosses the Divide, again at Targee, before reaching Yellowstone. I packed through Yellowstone, exited at Bootjack gap, rode into the Absarokas and North Fork of the Yellowstone. Here, the Nez Perce hoped to live with their friends the Crows, who killed them instead in exchange for rifles from the U.S. government.

The only safe place left for the Nez Perce was Canada. At this time, many had died, their clothing in tatters, with no teepee poles since Big Hole, and winter fast approaching. They had just prepared a herd of buffalo for their winter stores, when they were besieged by the U.S. Army from the East and forced to surrender on October 5, 1887. On that day, Chief Joseph said, "From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more, forever." Some Nez Perce escaped in the dark and snow and made it to Canada. After a ceremony at the battlefield, I will continue to Fort Walsh, where the remaining Nez Perce joined Chief Sitting Bull.

2014 marks the 20th anniversary of my ride of the Nez Perce Historic Trail. This journey is personal and I will ride alone. As in 1994, I will start in early June and end in October.

I don't have the financial resources for this ride and need your help. Any assistance, no matter how small, is necessary. Your support will help pay for back-up transportation, camping gear, fresh and dehydrated food, fuel, horses and horse feed, as well as veterinary and farrier care. I fully appreciate what it takes to complete this adventure again and share my story with you and its growing audience. To document the ride, I will keep a journal and photograph the trail.

Your donations are gratefully appreciated and can be made by clicking the 'Donate' link above. Donations are not tax deductible. If you are a business who wishes to sponsor me, please consider this an advertising opportunity.
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