Clara Caufield: Ancestors leave footprints in Montana mountains

A tipi at Hawley Mountain Ranch in Montana. Photo from Facebook

The footprints of indigenous people are still in these mountains
By Clara Caufield
Native Sun News Today Columnist

As I pen it is Friday at Hawley Mountain Guest Ranch, McLeod, Montana, located in the heart of the Gallatin National Forest.

Each day of the week the ranch has a theme and featured activity for the guests. On Fridays they can choose the “Meat Rack Ride,” fishing or hiking one of the area trails such as the “Indian Caves.” Meat Rack and Indian Caves are both both activities related to the long ago Indian people who lived in and used this land.

This week two stalwart riders from Texas, Phil and Cyndee Haley, chose the Meat Rack ride in spite of stormy weather. The Meat Rack site formally designated as such on U.S. Forest Service trail maps is an all day excursion from the ranch headquarters, a rugged trail about 7 miles one way, wending up through the pristine Gallatin National Forest on aged trails. The destination is a welcome natural clearing located at about 7,500 feet, traversed by a cool, clear and pristine mountain stream, teeming with cutthroat trout.

For millenniums Indian people favored the Absalooka and Beartooths in this area for hunting as the game, especially elk and moose, was plentiful. This area was also a perfect for harvesting lodge pole pine for teepee poles. Raptors, particularly eagles and hawks favor these pristine altitudes where the mountain breezes make for a smooth sail. Those magnificent creatures are always an inspirational sight to Native American and non-natives alike. That was especially true for Cyndee Haley, a professional rehabilitator and friend of the wounded winged ones.

Elk and moose are still abundant here; however the wolves which were recently very successfully re-introduced in the Yellowstone area have put a significant dent in both the elk and moose populations finding the calves of both species extremely easy prey. Before that, this country was a moose and elk hunter’s paradise for non-Indians as well, but now only one moose tag is annually issued in this general area based on U.S.F.S. game counts which establish the numbers for a prudent, responsible harvest.

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: The footprints of indigenous people are still in these mountains

(Contact Clara Caufield at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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