The article "A Yellowstone Tale" (see Aug. 23), examining the Nez Perce War of 1877, is deserving of further comment. In discussing the conflict, the author states:
1. "U.S. General Oliver O. Howard...was nicknamed 'The Christian General' for his tendency to make policy decisions based on religious beliefs." Howard did convert to evangelical Christianity during his service in the Seminole War of the 1850s, and was noted for his efforts to practice his faith in service of the oppressed. He was appointed head of the U.S. Freedman's Bureau after the Civil War, and in that capacity sought to provide humanitarian relief and political integration to the freed slave population. He also founded the traditionally African American Howard University of Washington, D.C. after the war. But any capable review of Howard's command during the 1877 war indicates Howard took actions based on superior's mandates, political constraints and military pragmatism.
2. "The tribe suffered a brutal massacre in Montana's Big Hole Valley." No serious scholar of the American West's military history ranks the August 9-11, 1877 Battle of the Big Hole on par with the 1864 Sand Creek, Colo. Massacre or the 1870 Baker Massacre in northern Montana. The term is usually reserved for unprovoked attacks against noncombatants, not for actions within the context of hostilities. Such niceties of course matter little to those that died in the battle's inherent violence. But the site is today acknowledged as Big Hole National Battlefield—and there is no need to deny agency to the Nez Perce resistance, which inflicted 29 dead and 40 wounded upon the attacking infantry.
3. "The cavalry...augmented with whiskey-fueled volunteers...struck at dawn [at Big Hole]." U.S. units fighting in the 1877 War included the 2nd and 7th Cavalry Regiments as well as the 5th, 7th and 21st Infantry Regiments. Aside from a small scouting detachment and volunteers, the Big Hole force was almost entirely composed of the 7th Infantry, which included the garrison of Fort Missoula. I cannot recall a single reputable source that indicates the Big Hole volunteers entered the battle in an alcoholic state. The Big Hole commander, Col. John Gibbon, was a battle-proven veteran of the Civil War. He would hardly have permitted such behavior during the silence-required night march prior to the battle.
4. "Chief Joseph surrendered to General Howard, who...promised that upon surrender that the 500 remaining Nez Perce would be taken back to their reservation in Lapwai, Idaho." Howard allowed the surrender to be accepted by General Nelson Miles, whose command vastly outnumbered Howard's at the final battle at Bear Paw in 1877. Sources are at best one-sided as to what was promised the Nez Perce at the surrender, but recent secondary sources give no indication of such a promise by Howard.
Hopefully the Independent will continue to publish articles of general interest about Montana history. And hopefully in doing so it will practice the same rigorous editorial sourcing and fact-checking evident in its investigative and political features.
Rocky Mountain Museum of Military History
Last month, on the interstate highway between Gold Creek and Drummond, transporting a fellow Montanan to Seattle to attend to her daughter's dying, I changed a flat tire on my car. The new Michelin had a quarter-inch slit in its sidewall. I kidded with a passing trucker, friendly enough to stop, even after he said he'd not have taken the trouble had he seen the "Obama 2008" bumper sticker I got with the car, bought used two years ago. When we stopped to buy a replacement tire in Missoula, another customer kept staring over my shoulder at the bumper sticker, saying "You can't be serious." He aggressively stuck his face into mine as I walked past into the tire store.I'm not a bumper sticker kind of person, so maybe this happens all the time, but I don't like it. I've resisted bullying in school, on the job and in the military. Bullying creates the atmospherics for a small clique to do any outrageous thing they please to or about someone, without being challenged by the cowed.Obama lost in Montana after fielding 80 paid staffers; there's now one, and our folksy Gov. Brian Schweitzer tells us our president has no chance in his state. Obama stickers are hard to get; there are none at Montana's state Democratic headquarters. Who says bullying doesn't work? Yet I'm pushing back, with a double-stickered Obamobile.
John B. Driscoll
Con-gratulations Independent! You've made it to the mainstream media. Your cover article "Dead center" (Sept. 6) about Sen. Max Baucus and health care reform takes you out of the alternative press and right into the cauldron of major media. What got you there? Your statement, "In pursuit of middle ground, centrist Democrats jettisoned proposals coming from more progressive members of their party, most notably a public health insurance option." The fact that you would parrot a phrase better suited for Fox News in your "indy" paper tells us how far to the right political propaganda in this country has swung.What in any way, shape or form is "progressive" about a health care plan fully endorsed by every member of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives? These folks we elect have a low-premium, low-deductible, single-payer (the taxpayer) supported health care plan—a plan every Republican member of Congress, including Rep. Denny Rehberg, uses along with every Republican member of the Montana Legislature at the state level. Republicans don't do "progressive" these days, or so they say, so obviously a low-premium, low-deductible, single-payer plan they use daily couldn't be "progressive" at all.Why don't you and I and everyone else in this country have the same plan as the people we hire and pay to work for us have in the land of "With Liberty and Justice for All?" Simple, you beat a person down long enough and eventually you can convince them that everything going wrong with them is their fault, their problem. Then, even scraps from the proverbial biblical table seem like manna from heaven. And comparing what we, the citizens, get out of the Affordable Care Act compared to what the drug companies, insurance companies and our elected official get, "scraps" is the kindest word that can be applied here. Local schools and clinics feeling ever-so-grateful for getting something they should have had decades ago, and in every community, shows how far the citizenry has been brainwashed into thinking, "It's huge."How would we know any better when our former watchdogs (the media), are now the lap dogs of the political class in order to maintain "access" with that group? Case in point: The simple question that never appeared: "Sen. Baucus, you have a low-premium, low-deductible, taxpayer-subsidized insurance plan. Why didn't you and the Democrats fight endlessly for all Montanans to have the same?"What ever happened to speaking truth to power?
Libertarian Candidate for Senate District 7
We’re all familiar with Aesop’s fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” The cautionary tale taught us that intentionally lying about something has its consequences, and that those consequences can negatively impact the people around us.
Crying wolf about the security of Montana’s elections is an intentional and deliberate attempt to decrease voter turnout by gaining support for laws that will restrict your right to vote. These false allegations of massive voter fraud have been tediously repeated despite all evidence to the contrary, and it’s time for the deceivers to start bearing the burden of proof.
As your secretary of state, and chief elections officer, I take every allegation of election fraud seriously. I launched the “The Fair Elections Center” early in my term so that every Montanan could easily report a potential state election law violation. Every allegation is documented, reviewed and, if warranted, passed on to the appropriate authorities.
The results are overwhelmingly clear. Voter fraud—votes knowingly cast by ineligible individuals—does not exist in Montana.
Misleading Montana citizens by repeating inaccurate and unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud deflects resources that should be used to find real solutions to real problems.
Montana’s county election administrators do a great job ensuring the integrity of our elections. When asked to present ID at the polls, or to sign your signature on an absentee ballot, you are doing your part to keep the state’s elections secure.
I’m proud to have been part of the effort to pass the Post-Election Audit Act in 2009. The measure verifies the accuracy of Montana’s vote-tabulating equipment by requiring a hand-count of a random selection of precincts and races. Since its implementation, the post-election audit has reinforced that Montana’s elections are fair and honest—and that the vote-tabulating equipment used by counties is accurate and secure.
Voter fraud is a federal and state crime. There are no documented cases of it occurring in Montana. Those who use the same anecdotal stories while providing no facts or proof are no different than the little shepherd boy who cried “wolf” when there was no wolf. Eventually, no one paid any attention to his cries. I am confident Montana voters will do the same.
Be prepared. Be informed. And don’t forget to vote on Nov. 6.
Montana Secretary of State
Gov. Brian Schweitzer recently indicated that more than 100 large companies were preparing to float legislation that would cut their property taxes in half. This is interesting since no bill on this subject has been brought forward or proposed to the Montana Legislature’s Revenue and Transportation Interim Committee as alleged. Unfortunately, Schweitzer must have been misinformed by the Department of Revenue.
The Montana Taxpayers Association is confused as to what the DOR may be referring to. However, we do believe that there is a very serious issue here and with all this smoke, there must be fire. For taxes in Montana to be at such a level to evoke protests, there is something fueling the flames—the unfettered discrimination of property tax values by DOR that has Montana businesses experiencing significant increases in their property taxes. In many instances DOR is going beyond statutory and rule-making authority to, as one member of RTIC said at a July meeting, “maximize revenue.” The unfortunate result of this is that sometimes the statute is not the problem; interpretation of the law by the DOR is a greater problem than the statute itself.
In the letters to RTIC mentioned by the governor, one in particular by the Yellowstone County Commissioners stated they are “increasingly concerned with the amount of protested taxes that are currently being held in escrow. When this money is in limbo, it is difficult to budget and plan for the years ahead.”
We agree there is a problem. The commissioners and business community are raising legitimate issues. They and others, like the Montana Taxpayers Association, are trying to set the table to have a meaningful discussion about a serious matter. That is why we supported RTIC studying the issue of central and industrial assessment as directed by Senate Joint Resolution 17. To ignore these issues instead of sitting down at the table to address them is shortsighted.
Sen. Jeff Essmann, a Republican from Billings, was correct when he stated that Montana is seeing a significant increase in protested taxes across the board. This is due to the rules constantly changing and arbitrary discretion by DOR which has resulted in assessment creep. This is not the experience of just centrally assessed and industrial facilities either; other classes of property are also experiencing the effects of an over-aggressive DOR. The business community in Montana undeservingly is under attack.
Who really loses? The twice-paying public, which experience both higher rates to pay for the inflated increase in taxes and the unpredictable funding for local government and schools. It is time to put this fire out. It’s a matter of fairness which all taxpayers—large and small—expect.
Nancy Schlepp, President
Montana Taxpayers Association