Medicine Tree Historical Marker

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Darby 59829,Southwest Montana

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Historical Markers/Interpretive SignHistoric Sites
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General info

This Ponderosa Pine has been standing guard here on the bend of the river for nearly 400 years. Somewhere, embedded in its trunk, a few feet above the ground, is the horn of a Big Horn Ram, the basis of a legend which across the centuries has established the historical significance of the pine as a Medicine Tree.

Once upon a time, when the tree was small, according to Salish Indian lore, a mountain sheep of giant stature and with massive, curling horns, accepting a challenge from his hereditary enemy, Old Man Coyote, attempted to butt it down. The little pine stood firm, but one of the ram’s horns caught in the bole, impaling the luckless sheep, causing his death. A Salish war party chased the coyote away from his anticipated feast and then hung offerings of beads, cloth, ribbon, and other items on the ram’s horns as good medicine tokens to his bravery, and to free the scene of evil.

Countless succeeding Indian tribes followed the practice until, less than 100 years ago, the horn disappeared within the tree. But the Indians continue to regard it as a shrine and even the white men honor its sacred legend.

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