Places We Hold Sacred

I was recently looking at our Rand McNally maps to check out the surroundings of the town that is the setting for my current work in progress, set in Alder, Montana, just west of Virginia City. That led me to the location of the Crow Indian reservation … and that led to seeing the Little Big Horn River … and that led to finding the Custer Battlefield on the map, which lies within the Crow reservation. I’ve been to that battlefield, and finding it on the map brought it all back, and my chest actually hurt at the memory.

There are places in this country that will always, always be held sacred, and the Custer battlefield is one of them … places where you just get the chills when you stand there, places where people whisper even though they don’t need to … places that have a church-like affect on a person. I am always fascinated and find it a bit surreal to be standing where some monumental historical event took place. It makes me feel small and insignificant, just one person who will be here today and gone tomorrow and not remembered much … not like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington and George Armstrong Custer and Sitting Bull and Geronimo and Ben Franklin and America’s founding fathers and … well, the list goes on and on. When you step foot in a place where a key event in American history took place, you want so much for our young people to understand what it took to grow this country, to respect those who went before us and got us where we are today. 

Standing there on that battlefield, hearing the wind blow across those rolling hills, seeing where those men of the 7th Cavalry all died just makes me so grateful that I was able to go there and see that sacred place. Some say Custer deserved what happened, and those of you who know how much I respect our Native American history know that I probably agree with that, but that’s not my point here. My point is that we need to remember all the fantastic events that took place as this country suffered growing pains. I wish every young person in America could see some of these places that bring history alive and teach respect for our pioneers and for our Native Americans.

Sacred places – like the Alamo. I’ve been there, too. That little mission that once was the only blip on an endless horizon and now is buried amid high-rise hotels and offices … that tiny mission that, thank God, our government preserved and has kept restored so that it is another place that gives you the chills and makes you whisper. Walking into that place where so many brave and famous men died for the freedom of others is something you can only experience by being there. Once inside, people whisper, and some cry. You can’t help it. When you stand inside the Alamo it hits you that – oh, my gosh – this place is real! The fight at the Alamo really happened, creating the war cry – “Remember the Alamo!”

And there were famous Indian battles – the long struggle by soldiers to bring in Geronimo, that daring Apache leader who caused so much havoc and who seemed to be able to hide by changing himself into dust or wind. That same Indian leader was so brave and daring that his name is used even today as a word that means those very things – bravery and daring. Soldiers jump out of a plane and yell – “Geronimo!”

Sacred places. I’ve seen the house where the famous “unsinkable” Molly Brown lived in Denver. Again, when you go there it hits you how real that piece of history is. Molly Brown. Wow – what an exciting life she led. Imagine being so historically famous that Hollywood makes movies about you.

I’ve also been to the ancient stone medicine wheel at the top of Medicine Mountain in the Big Horn Mountains of northern Wyoming. There lies a formation of rocks built by Native Americans in the shape of a wheel with spokes that lead to a central cairn. No one knows for certain who actually built the medicine wheel, but all agree it’s a sacred site where some Native American tribe likely held religious rituals. There is a fence around it now, on which are tied various sacred prayer symbols, such as feathers. What is most fascinating about the site is that on the top of a nearby mountain is a stone arrow that points to the medicine wheel - built when as far as we know there was no such thing as an airplane. So why the arrow? Who could see it? Did whoever built these things simply believe there was a God above who needed their directions, or were those ancient people aware of visitors from another world? I’ll let you wonder about that. I’ve been there twice, and my Mystic Indian trilogy is based on the Medicine Wheel.

Sacred places … there are so many - famous Civil War sites … places where the Pilgrims first landed … key sites and battlefields vital to the Revolutionary War … and more recently – Pearl Harbor, and the 9-1-1 memorial, where two of the tallest buildings in the world once stood.

My husband and I have traveled the west extensively for a good 30 years now. I have been to just about every location mentioned in my 58 books, and I feel fortunate to have been able to do so much traveling. All these places are symbols of men and women sacrificing their lives for the preservation of their country and for freedom, and freedom is the seed planted on our shores when the first Pilgrims arrived. It is the cornerstone on which America was built, and my admiration for those brave souls who trudged and fought their way from the Atlantic to the Pacific is why I write what I write.

Oh, the magnificent history of these United States! It has taken me 58 books to cover just some of it. It would take 500 or more books to do justice to the countless people and events and places that played a vital role in the growth of this country.


  1. I love reading about your love of history - it's so infectious and really shines through in your novels. Thank you for posting!

  2. Where would we be without those who came before us. I, too, have stood still at historical places to absorb the spirits of those who once walked there.

  3. I love that I can present both sides of any issue to my students. I've taught them about the American Revolution so that they understood both King George and the Patriots. The battles that the Native People fought were the harshest because so much of Native civilizations were wiped out. Thanks for sharing your memories. I wish I could see them all!

  4. What a wonderful post - Thanks so much for sharing Rosanne!

  5. You mentioned the Alamo and used the words little and tiny. The Alamo has always loomed large in our history. It came as a shock to stand in it and realize how incredibly small it is physically.