Darby residents are gearing up for the second annual celebration of Sacajawea’s passage through the area as she led members of the Lewis and Clark expedition down to the valley floor where they met the Salish Indians near Ross’s Hole. The celebration is scheduled to take place on Friday, August 30 from 1 to 4 p.m. in the heart of downtown Darby at the Sacajawea Rest Park.
The celebration will begin with the unveiling of an art exhibition produced by students in Darby High School’s Art excellence class. Sean Byers, the class instructor, will be there with a few students to unveil the art and discuss the contents. The art generally depicts the history of the Darby area environs over the last 15,000 years.
The event primarily celebrates the time in early September 1805 that the young Indian woman, Sacajawea, led 33 members of the Corps of Discovery down the Descent Trail into the Bitterroot Valley. This year, in honor of Sacajawea’s accomplishments, the focus of the event as well as a portion of the proceeds generated will go to the Missing and Murdered Native American Women Fund. Jami Pluff, a Confederated Kootenai and Salish Tribe analyst, will be on hand to discuss the important work being done to find the missing and stop the murdering of Native American women.
Ted Hall, an instructor in the Darby High School Adult Education program, will discuss his “re-discovery” of the trail. He is author of a couple of books in which he ground-truths Clark’s surveys which were meticulously recorded in the journals. The books chronicle the long and exhaustive research and hiking involved that led him to conclude that he had found the trail that was described by Clark in the journals.
The trail has been officially recognized by the Bitterroot National Forest. It has been signed and reconditioned in portions. Hall and retired botanist Blaine Furniss now host regular field trips along the Descent Trail as part of the Darby High School Adult Education program.
Participants in the educational expedition not only get to literally walk in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark (and Sacajawea) but also meet and greet a “witness tree” located on a very narrow stretch of the descent trail where the members of the group were most likely brushed by the tree’s needle covered branches.
This tree, now recognized as the Sacajawea teenage witness tree, was just a teenager when 33 members of the Lewis and Clark expedition, led by the young Sacajawea, threaded their way across this very narrow section of the Descent Trail. It is one of those rare spots on their entire journey where it’s fairly certain that you are literally walking in the footprints of the Corps of Discovery, and quite possibly touching a tree that was once touched by Sacajawea herself.
The last scheduled speaker at the event is Laurie Smith, president of the South Valley Civic Group which worked to create the pocket park honoring Sacajawea, will discuss the group’s future goals and introduce a new scholarship for Darby High School students. Raffle items donated by local artists and crafts people will be raffled off with the proceeds benefitting both the Murdered Native American Women Fund and the Sacajawea Rest Park.