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Turkey Day Road Trips

Published in the November 2022 Issue Published online: Nov 11, 2022 Holidays
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STORY AND PHOTOS BY STEVE SMEDE

AS THE U.S. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN EXPLAINS IT, a band of wayward travelers hit the shores of New England in 1620, short on food and ill-equipped for a winter onslaught that wiped out half the colony. The following spring, the local Wampanoag tribe taught the newcomers how to hunt, fish and grow vegetables.

The bounty that followed, as you can imagine, was cause for great celebration.

Now 4 centuries later here in East Idaho, you can certainly give thanks on Nov. 24 to whatever or whomever you choose. Given the history of this special day, however, it seems like the best way to celebrate Thanksgiving is by saluting the Native American cultures who first brought it to fruition.

A late-November, 38-hour trek to honor the tribes of New England might not be in the cards for you and your family, but there are still some great Turkey Day excursions you can enjoy right around Idaho Falls.

One of the most obvious choices is a quick 38-minute jaunt south to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes at Fort Hall. Well known for its gaming facilities, concerts and fullservice hotel, the property is also a historical landmark. Its onsite museum, located right off the interstate, showcases the tribe’s history with artifacts, vintage photography, Native American books, artwork and more.

Depending on your willingness to mix up your own traditions, you could even round out your travels with a side trip to the annual Thanksgiving dinner buffet at the casino!

If you’d rather just stick to the road, gas up for a tour along the Sacajawea Historic Byway. The scenic route begins up the road at Interstate 15 Exit 143. (Be sure to check out the interpretive signage, and maybe snap a picture of it with your phone for reference.) The 132-mile trek is dotted with more roadside signage for historical sites, as well as stops in Terreton-Mud Lake, Lone Pine, Lemhi and Tendoy. (Also be sure to check out the mining relic of Gilmore and the famous 130-year old charcoal kilns near Leadore.)

At the route’s endpoint in Salmon, you’ll find the Sacajawea Interpretive Center. The exhibits here focus on Sacajawea herself, historical artifacts, beadwork and a collection of interpretive displays. The center is expertly staffed and includes a small gift shop with souvenirs to top off your trip.

Weather willing, one of our favorite historical jaunts is the scenic route up to Kilgore and the battle site at Camas Meadows. This is the location of a stealthy, horse-stealing raid carried out by Nez Perce warriors, who slowed down the advance of General Oliver Howard following the attack at Big Hole in 1877.

On your way up, be sure to check out the roadside kiosk at the I-15 exit in Dubois, which briefly details the war and its importance in the area. Another kiosk can be found at a secondary “encounter” site 7 miles south of Kilgore, along with a striking steel art installation of three Nez Perce warriors on horseback. It’s impossible to miss. Each in their own way, these three short road trips conjure up a past that is in equal measure nostalgic and solemn. And while much more can be said about the history of Native Americans as a whole, our Thanksgiving holiday marks a perfect occasion to celebrate their enduring, giving spirit.

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