Montana Facts

In earlier, prehistoric days, the area that we know as Montana, together with Alberta, Canada, was the land where tyrannosaurus and brontosaurus, as well as a number of smaller dinosaurs, could be found. During the centuries preceding the ‘discovery’ of America by Christopher Columbus, this land was populated by many American Indians, or Native Americans if you will. This was the territory controlled by tribes such as the Kalispel, Kootenai, Salish (Flathead), Blackfoot, Crow, Cheyenne, and Assiniboin.

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The United States had expanded considerably westward with the 1803 Louisiana Purchase when the eastern portions of what we now know as Montana became U.S. territory. The famous Lewis and Clark expedition traveled through the region, first up the Missouri River and then over the Montana mountains in 1804, and on their way back, they again passed the area in 1806.

Many explorers, fur trappers, and missionaries came to the present-day Montana region and in the year 1818, the northern border of this U.S. territory was set at the 49th parallel. Montana’s western part fell under Oregon Country, and this northern border was also set at the 49th parallel. Western Montana has been part of several territories, first Oregon Territory, then Washington Territory, and later Idaho Territory.

In the mid-1800s, many settlers were coming to the area, wagon train full, as the region became known for cattle and sheep ranching. Several treaties gained, or stole, a lot of Indian lands, and the 1862 discovery of gold at Bannack caused more settlers to move here.

Montana became a Territory of its own in 1864, and the first capital was Bannack, only to be succeeded by Helena later. Yellowstone Park, partly situated in Montana, was the first American institutionalized National Park in 1872, and during the 1870s and ’80s, copper, silver, and gold mining had become a substantial business in and around at Butte.

In the year 1876, George Custer was killed. George Armstrong Custer, a U.S. Army officer and a cavalry commander during the Civil War and the American Indian War, together with a group of 255 soldiers, were killed that year by Cheyenne and Sioux Indians that were commanded by Chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.

This was the ‘Battle of the Little Bighorn’. In retaliation, the Cheyenne and the Sioux Indians, and also the Nez Perce Indians led by Chief Joseph, were defeated in 1877. In 1883, the Northern Pacific Railway was already crossing Montana, which was admitted as a U.S. state in 1889. Charles Russell (from Great Falls) was a great painter of western events and scenes at that time when timber and wheat production started to become major industries in Montana.

Montana U.S. Senator William A. Clark (not to be mistaken for William E. Clark of the great Lewis & Clark expedition) was not admitted to the Senate in 1900 as he was supposedly elected in an illegal way. Glacier National Park was founded in 1910, and 1917 was the year that Missoula’s Jeannette Rankin was to be the first woman who ever served in Congress. Jeanette is known for having voted against the 1917 U.S. war declaration against Germany, and she was also the only one who did not vote in favor of the 1941 declaration of war against Japan.

Montana’s Glacier National Park became a part of the international Waterton-Glacier Peace Park, a cooperation between Canada & the U. S., and in the period 1940 – 1950, Montana saw the construction of a great number of hydro-electric dams. In 1959, an earthquake shaped Quake Lake, and Montana’s Mike Mansfield was chosen as Senate Majority Leader in 1961.

In land size, Montana ranks 4th after Alaska, Texas, and California, but in population, it only ranks 44th (estimated population 2016: 1,037 million). Montana’s name is the ‘Treasure State’, but more recently, the name ‘Tremendous Sky Country’ is also heard frequently.

Montana offers great panoramic views, from the Rocky Mountains regions to the Pleasant Plains. It has been given the nickname ‘Tremendous Sky country’ because of the state’s broad-open areas such as Glacier National Park, a huge wasteland that goes all the way into Canada. The park’s numerous snow-capped peaks, mountain climbing trails, and beautiful lakes can be marveled at when visitors drive along the famous ‘Going-to-the-sun Road’, a beautiful scenic mountain road that stretches over 50 miles.